Sunday, September 7, 2014

BURIAL TO FOLLOW, supernatural novella


BURIAL TO FOLLOW
SCOTT NICHOLSON

Haunted Computer Books
99¢ Kindle original, available now

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: When Jacob Ridgehorn dies, it's up to Roby Snow to help his soul move along to its proper reward. Roby can only accomplish this through the means of a very special pie. And Roby must complete his mission, or face down Johnny Divine, with his own soul at stake.

My Review: Roby Snow tends to the grieving families of Barkersville's newly departed. His job, it seems, is to insert himself into the survivors and influence the outcome of their grieving process to match what the departed loved, or not so loved, one needs to get into the afterlife. He's got his hands full with the Ridgehorns, starting with patriarch Jacob, the late Jacob, who wants to be sure his Massey Ferguson tractor doesn't get sold out of the family, that his selfish nasty son and slutty daughter get what's coming to them, and the good girl he loved best is at peace. It falls to Roby, as it has so many times before, to make sure the entire clan eats the funeral pie made by neighborly church-going friend Beverly Parsons. It's mandatory, you see. Not just because it's mannerly to eat the huuuge amount of food that friends and neighbors heap on the grieving family in the South, but because...well, because, and best not to monkey with some traditions or look too closely into them.

Roby, Beverly, town undertaker Clawson, and a mysterious old blind garage owner called Jimmy Divine all have roles to play in this spooky carnival of sin, retribution, and score-settling that is the front porch to an afterlife that doesn't seem to look much like the one described in the Barkersville Baptist Church. Roby, at the end of the day, will explain why it's all unfolding the way it should, though:
Roby had no relatives to eat his pie. Nobody could help him pass over, nobody could send him down the road to Judgment. Nobody had ever loved him. And he’d never loved anyone else.
The author is, or was at the time this novella was written, a journalist in the Blue Ridge Mountain area. No further explanation needed, then, for how he got so deep into the psyche of Southern family dynamics surrounding death, and the regional death customs that are so deftly and quickly delivered to the reader. It's a spooky and atmospheric novella, one that's just exactly the right length to tell you its story and not have either empty spots or padded places. You know enough by the end of the tale to know why it's happening this way, and how it's going to play out from here on in.

Special mention for naming the town “Barkersville,” which took me a full minute to get...he doesn't call the main road “Clive Street,” but that's about the extent of his restraint!

One thing I promise you: Funeral pie will never look quite the same to you again.

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