"Where Stars Won't Shine" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Grindhouse Press

Written by Patrick Lacey
2019, 194 pages, Fiction
Released on 4th Jannuary, 2019


The nice folks at Grindhouse Press follow the top-notch December 2018 release of Matt Kurtz’s Kinfolk with another strong offering. Where Stars Won’t Shine might not be as nasty as Kinfolk, but it has an involving plot, engaging characters and a haunting setting which is heavy with atmosphere. If you’ve never previously read a Grindhouse Press novel, this is an excellent entry-point into their unsettling world, as the violence levels do not reach the heights of many of their other releases and gives a good flavour of the fiction they bring out.

Patrick Lacey cleverly weaves several story strands into a pacey novel which wastes little time in hitting the ground running with the suicide of a true-crime writer, Charlie Williamson. The author dies on the same day his biography on the prolific serial killer, Tucker Ashton, is released, with the book later becoming a runaway hit. Tucker had been caught and punished for his crimes but later inexplicitly disappears from prison and is never heard of again. He is presumed dead, but this unexplained occurrence only adds to his mystique as a serial killer of infamous reputation.

Forget Bundy, Gacy and all the other high-profile serial killers, none bumped off the incredible number that Tucker Ashton tortured and despatched. The majority were in his home town of Marlowe, Massachusetts, where Ashton eventually returns to and is caught after his final killing spree. Much of the novel is set in Marlowe and this is an outstanding setting, a town which failed to come to term with the horrible events and which Tucker Ashton has a weird hold over. The supernatural element of Where Stars Won’t Shine is unsettling and unexplained as Tucker pulls otherworldly strings which drag the protagonists into his world.

Peppered with extracts from “Birth of a Monster”, which was written by Charlie Williamson, it features eye-catching flashbacks to the youth of Tucker Ashton and his discovery of the Dark Web as a way of showcasing murders he filmed for a growing audience. Although Ashton’s presence drifts in and out of his novel, he dominates proceedings and many of the main characters are puppets on his string heading to Marlowe for different reasons.

Where Stars Won’t Shine will have you thinking about the cult of celebrity which often surrounds real serial killers. One of the main characters, Zeke Evans, is obsessed with these murderers and makes a good living by running a website dedicated to them, and no surprises for guessing which bad-boy is his favourite.  Parts of the story is also seen from Amy’s point of view, the girlfriend of Zeke, who has a very bad feeling about her partner’s obsession with Tucker Ashton.

Also thrown into the mix is Ivy Longwood, an English teacher who has weird visions which exasperate her long-suffering sister Mariah and have become more frequent after her partner Scott was murdered two years earlier by Tucker Ashton. He writes “I’ll be seeing you soon” in the blood of the dead man.

Finally, there is Ethan Roberts, who is suckered into a pill scam by his brother Andrew, desperate for cash to pay for cancer medication for daughter Lisa. He also finds himself heading for Marlowe even though the meeting place was supposed to be in a neighbouring town.

This is a very easy novel to read with characters all having distinct believable voices in a convincing horror novel. Tucker Ashton is a terrific bad-guy and works well as a Freddie Kreuger-style character, who does not appear in too many scenes until nearer the end. The town of the dead is both bleak and outstanding; Marlowe Hotel, in particular, is not somewhere I will be visiting anytime soon.

Where Stars Wont Shine has many nice touches, with the bending of reality being a convincing example, with the end result another very good novel from Grindhouse Press.


Overall: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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