Top positive review
Refreshingly different but not completely satisfying
on September 20, 2002
This isn't your run-of-the mill horror novel; it doesn't employ a simple plot or try merely to unnerve you with atrocious acts and agents. There is gore to be found in Hexes, to be sure, but it almost came as a surprise to me each time. As I read the tale, I found myself enveloped in a murky, fog-enshrouded atmosphere, moving back and forth across time viewing events and people I struggled to understand and come to terms with. If you do not commit yourself to reading the entire book, you may bow out early because it does not really reach out and grab you. Matthew Galen comes back home when he learns his old friend A.G. is suspected of murder and is being detained at the mental institution that Galen's own father once oversaw. As Galen and A.G. converse (telepathically), we begin to get bits and pieces of the history of the town. Increasing references to the seemingly living scars on Galen's chest and to "the Goat" offer murky clues as to the diabolical forces at work here. As Galen seeks out the evil in his home town, the author serves up a series of flashbacks to Galen's strange history--what happened to his friends, how he learned the arcane arts (hexes, sigils, etc.) he uses to protect himself, and just what the Goat really represents. It is not until the conclusion that we find out the biggest pieces of the puzzle, and even then I never felt comfortably sure of my knowledge of the whole business. While the ending does offer up one important surprise, I found it somewhat disappointing and, in one particular detail, a little too convenient.
I think the complexity of the novel, in addition to the author's decision to withhold the most crucial bits of information until the very end, is a weakness of sorts. It is hard to immerse yourself in, and it becomes rather confusing at points. For those with little knowledge of this type of horror, hinging on arcane magic, ancient grimoires, and demonic manifestations, the book may prove daunting. For those with a passion for horror, you will find that the story is not at all Lovecraftian, despite the similarities in theme, so you can be assured that the plot and finale will not reveal themselves to you through the seemingly familiar signs you will meet upon different occasions. Piccirilli definitely has his own style, and different readers will react to it differently. I enjoyed his writing, but I never found myself swept away by it. This is the kind of horror fiction that tries to lull you to sleep and then suddenly lurch upon you when you least expect it--the atrocities witnessed by the reader are described deftly, even poetically, but every last detail is included for the reader's repulsion and/or glee. I just can't help but feel that the author held back a little at the end, that he decided not to tell me something important that would help me truly understand the book. By and large, though, Piccirilli is a talented, refreshingly unique type of horror writer, and that makes him a rare commodity in the horror field.