"The Headless Boy" Book Review

Written by Steve Pattee

Published by Poltergeist Press

the headless boy kelli owen large

Written by Kelli Owen
2021, 396 pages, Fiction
Released on March 8th, 2021


My introduction to Kelli Owen’s work was her novella, Deceiver. I was hooked. I like a lot about Owen’s style, and one thing that I like the most, and I’ve mentioned before, is how grounded her supernatural books are. It’s like part Law & Order, part Supernatural, and all fun. Hell, a perfect example of this straight-face supernatural style is her vampire novel, Teeth. It’s not only a statement on society, as horror is apt to do, but it’s also an interesting and realistic take on bloodsuckers.

But with Wilted Lilies, there was a slight disturbance in the force. Sure, it had the feel of a police procedural with a touch of a haunting, but something was different. Owen was getting spookier. It was with Passages, the sequel to Wilted Lilies, that Owen started really showing her range. Of all the books I’ve read of hers – which I think is about eight or so – Passages brought some legit chills. Don’t get me wrong, Kelli Owen is most definitely a horror author, but my experience with her work leaned more into Silence of the Lambs or Fallen than The Legend of Hell House or The Haunting.

And now we have The Headless Boy.

After a miscarriage that devastated them, Jake and Maggie move to a new house in a new town for a fresh start. They’re barely even settled before Maggie discovers there’s another resident in their new home; a young boy named Bobby. He’s been dead for quite a while.

At first, Jake is fine with Maggie’s new pal, even though he can’t see him. He just assumes it’s part of her healing process. But it isn’t long before he finds out not only is Bobby not part of his wife’s imagination, but the little bastard wants to be part of the family. By family, I mean just him and Maggie. Jake’s gotta go.

Listen, I’m going to put this out there. I’m glad I don’t have kids. First, the stress of them would kill me. I’d worry about them every time they left the house because I’m neurotic and I would consider EVERY scenario, from abductions to fiery car crashes. Second, kids can be creepy little assholes. So instead of dying by reason one or reason two, I’m just avoiding the whole scenario. Plus, I like money. But I digress.

Owen delivers an incredibly haunting – in both ghosts and devastation – novel in The Headless Boy. She deftly guides you through the story, taking her time laying out all the pieces and getting you attached to the characters before pulling back the curtain on some real evil. And things get nasty.

I’m a fan of ‘quiet horror’ and The Headless Boy is a perfect example of what quiet horror can be. Owen doesn’t make the book about the ghost. She does what all great creatives do, she makes it about our heroes first, then their battle with the spawn from hell. I genuinely cared for Maggie and Jake (although I freely admit that if I was Jake in this scenario, I’d have been long gone) because, for example, Owen gives you a reason why Maggie hurts so much by simply providing a background to her. Yes, she grieves for her dead child, but her pain goes deeper than that because of her past.

The scares are real in The Headless Boy. Like I said above, kids are creepy anyway, so their stupid, scary toys popping up in random places will bring goosebumps. Oh, there’s also that knife thing…

So, I started this out by saying one of my favorite things about her style is how grounded her supernatural books are. But, dare I say, I’m no longer sure about that. Because The Headless Boy has Owen showing her skill with a straight-up haunting and I want/kind of need more of that. The Headless Boy is Kelli Owen’s best book so far, and I think she’s just getting started.


Overall: 4.5 Cover
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Steve Pattee
US Editor, Admin
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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