Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.
Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow.
Because something was coming.
Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infect it’s residents.
Making them cheat. Making them steal. Making them kill.
Detective Sergeant Pace has returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple.
But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.
Long-time readers of the shelf may recall that I struggled somewhat to put Will Carver’s last book, Nothing Important Happened Today, into words. It was so unique, so dark but so brilliant, so very, very unusual – and so very easy to spoil if you gave away too much.
Well, surprise surprise, I’m equally stumped as to how I’m going to review Hinton Hollow Death Trip, Carver’s follow-up to Nothing Important and the third in his Detective Sergeant Pace series. Because Carver has only gone and written ANOTHER uniquely dark and disturbing thriller with a dash of pitch-black humour and so many twists it’ll leave your head spinning.
But, before we go any further, time to talk triggers. Make no mistake, Hinton Hollow Death Trip is a DARK book. It pulls no punches in its depictions of alcohol abuse, suicide, animal cruelty, child murder, and family breakdown. I’m not usually put off by dark themes but even I found some of the incidents in Hinton Hollow extremely disturbing so if you are a reader of a sensitive disposition, or any of these topics are triggering for you, then Hinton Hollow Death Trip is not going to be the book for you.
That said, as with Nothing Important, what kept me reading through even the darkest chapters was that Carver doesn’t make his violence gratuitous. It’s not there simply to shock the reader, or to cause them to recoil in horror. Every incident, however violent, is designed to develop a character, to advance the plot, or to further make Evil’s very simple point: people have the power to destroy everything.
Yes, Hinton Hollow Death Trip is narrated by Evil. And Evil has it’s eyes on Detective Sergeant Pace. Following the events of Nothing Important Happened Today, Pace has retreated to his hometown of Hinton Hollow. But Evil has followed him. It is infecting the town, taking the petty jealousies and latent fears of the townspeople and turning them against themselves. It starts with the shocking murder of a child. Or maybe it starts with a little boy, alone on a train and far from home. Or with the elderly lady who has become the beating heart of the town. Or with the young couple, soon to be married. Or with the mothers.
I’m not going to tell you any more about Hinton Hollow Death Trip‘s plot. Unravelling it will make your brain ache by the end of the book but it’s a wild and unexpected ride, with shocking revelations coming thick and fast as the novel progresses. Trust me when I say you’re going to need a breather after this book – with it’s short, sharp chapters and direct prose it’s not complicated in a ‘difficult to read’ sense but I still needed a good few days to process the way in which the various plot strands came together, and the wider implications of the novel’s dark themes.
I worry that I’ve made Hinton Hollow Death Trip sound like a terminally depressing book. It really isn’t – in fact, there’s a strand of pitch-black humour running amidst the destruction that Evil leaves in its wake. As with Death in Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Carver’s Evil is a wryly observer of the human condition, and their interventions and observations provide both poignancy and humour.
This unusual perspective does an excellent job of making you really think about the events taking place in Hinton Hollow, and how they reflect the reality of human nature. More than once during the novel, I found myself wondering what I would do in that situation, or jolted into the realisation that I was judging the characters in exactly the way that Evil was expecting them to be judged. It’s definitely a novel that will leave you wondering about morality, and that encourages you to think about the extent to which nature and nurture impact upon a person’s moral compass.
Hinton Hollow Death Trip is, arguably, one of the most unrepentantly dark books I’ve ever read, and one of the most brilliant. It’s dark, complex, original, memorable, disturbing, and mesmerising. It’s definitely not a book for everyone but, if you can handle the sinister content, you’ll discover one of the most unique books of the year.
Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver is published by Orenda Books and is available from all good booksellers and online retailers including the Orenda e-bookstore, Hive, and Waterstones. You can also get an exclusive first edition from independent bookseller Goldsboro Books.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me onto and organising this blog tour. The continue continues until 14 August so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.