"Silvers Hollow" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Oblivion Publishing
Written by Patrick Delaney
2021, 186 pages, Fiction
Released on 1 June 2021
I was impressed by Patrick Delaney’s previous novel, The House That Fell From the Sky, an entertaining spin on the haunted house tale, which is slightly let down by the fact that it is too long. However, rarely do you hear of buildings which quite literally drop out of the sky, an event brilliantly described in the opening sequence and the catastrophic destruction which follows, so it is also worth further investigation. The author does not make the same mistake twice, and Silvers Hollow is a much leaner beast and a significantly shorter 186-pages, featuring a tightly constructed and streamlined story. Admittedly, proceedings may well have some readers scratching their heads (okay, everybody), but at the same time it is very easy to remain invested in reading a few extra pages in the off chance another piece of the perplexing jigsaw might fall into place (forget it).
The blurb mentions “Hitchcockian paranoia and the Lynchian surreal” and this is an honest hook which should be used to sell and hype Silvers Hollow. This is one of those books where it is very difficult to figure out what exactly is going on and the not knowing is a major part of the fun. Nothing is quite what it seems in this odd little town. Some readers might find this frustrating, as very little makes immediate sense, and everything is self-consciously weird or obscure. However, you will quickly find yourself being sucked into a mystery, in which the protagonist is not even sure herself what she is attempting to solve, as her memory is fragmented, but feels in her bones something is off.
Deliberately disorientating from the opening pages, a young woman wakes up in the train station of her hometown, a place she has not visited for years. She is immediately picked up by a policeman, he who tells her things have changed and are now different (but from what?) and she vaguely recognises him from years earlier. She also has the impression little has moved on, but does notice small and unsettling contrasts which put her on edge. Much of the plot centres around time and memory; how old is the woman? Is it really twenty years since she last visited? How much can we read into the hints of what has been going on in the previous two decades? Clues are dropped about a key episode from the past and there are very few people populating the empty streets. What the heck is going on? Welcome to a cross between The Twilight Zone and Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines, or any other oddball town you can think of.
The main character obviously has baggage and there are flashbacks to when she was a kid, much of which centres upon her sister Ivy and the obscure issues she had with her parents. I do not want to say much more about the plot, as Silvers Hollows is best read not knowing too much in advance. The work also has an oppressive atmosphere which adds an extra layer to proceedings. This is topped by the clever descriptions of the location which might give a few indications to the direction the story is heading.
Much of the success of Silvers Hollow depends on how you rate the ending. Often books which have a convincing hook or concept are let down by their big finish or lack of it, but this is not the case with this story. As I was reading it, I played out various permutations, possibilities and wild guesses, a couple of which were not too far from the mark. One could argue the story is slightly one paced, in that everything revolves around the questions being asked by the main character and there is little in the way of threat. Ultimately, the plot unfolds like a bad trip, with the reader observing an unfolding nightmare or experiment, following the protagonist discovering the breadcrumbs. You will have fun following the trail and I was pleased I guessed the ultimate direction of the plot.
Silvers Hollow is an easy and fast-paced read which keeps the reader guessing with some decent twists, a well-described location and brooding atmosphere. Coming in at under 200 pages, there is plenty of fun to hold your attention for a few hours. This is a very solid followup to The House That Fell From the Sky and also pleasingly different, a very good indication that Patrick Delaney is an author to watch.
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