If it hadn't been for the fact this book was on my Horror 2016 list I would have DNF it so hard it would have been asking me why for hours.
Seriously though, there are some good elements here, it just takes way too long to get going. And even when the plot finally starts moving and everything ties together, you honestly just don't care at that point, you just want the book to end.
The book starts off in medias res though you don't realize that right away. As a reader all you know is that some man has seemingly kidnapped a little girl. Then the story goes back further from this event and we have four men, Lewis Benedikt, Sears James, Frederick Hawthorne and John Jaffrey. All together they make up what they call The Chowder Society. Getting together to reminisce over their friend Edward Wanderley's death a year ago gathering together to tell ghost stories and think on their friend who died a year ago. From there you realize that something occurred the night their friend died and that they all are very scared, but don't want to admit it to each other. You don't begin to understand why they have clung to each other through the decades.
We have so many characters in this one it would be hard to even call one a main character. I think for me, the book really didn't start to gel when the story included the perspective of Edward Wanderley's nephew. At that point I was well past the 50 percent point and I thought the whole book up until that point was a lot of filler.
For me, the idea that evil can return again and again and most fear is manifested through tales we tell each other was a cool concept. I just had a lot of trouble with none of these men who realized what was going on even having a conversation with each other. All of the town of Milburn where this story takes place is just reacting to everything occurring so there is just a lot of reading about what other awful thing has just happened.
The writing I thought was really good and sharp though at times I wish that Straub had cut it out with the repetition. I mean in one half of sentence Straub could be describing snow and then the remaining sentence would be reflecting on how a character had their entire head turned around while sitting out in it. The book to me was not really scary and there was no gore (not complaining). A lot of the killings happen off screen so to speak or are just described after the fact so you don't have to read what happened to people, your imagination can help fill in the blanks.
The flow was pretty bad though. As interesting as the story was to start in medias res, to go from that back to the town of Milburn and the four men who make up the majority of the book was just awful. I pretty much found out some people in this story sucked, one of the wives definitely did, but pretty much ends up kicking ass in the end in several scenes, and then we kind of stumble towards the ending.
The town of Milburn really does come alive in this book. I thought at the end of the book I could trace where everyone lived and describe the entire layout of the town. So for me that part was great. That said, the town as a whole was weird. I mean one unexplained death sure, but the bunch that were going on, come on people, get a move on. I am always one of those people that when I see something not right quickly does an about face and gets the heck out of there.
The ending was problematic for me. I think it was because I have a hard time thinking on something "evil" deciding to just keep coming back to get revenge on people. I don't know. Maybe that's just me. If I could be anything and do anything, I don't think I would worry about human beings all that much. At least it showed that being evil does not equal smart, because woo boy, the big bad was dumb as a box of rocks. The characters that it manipulates are not, and I was more interested in why the "big bad" was able to turn certain people and what they entailed. So for me, I wish we had been given a glimpse at how that happened.