Monday, January 6, 2014

Devil's Oven by Laura Benedict Review

Title: Devil’s Oven
Author: Laura Benedict
Genre: Gothic Fairy Tale or Light Horror
Pages: 257
Price:  $4.99
Rating: Spooky, but not terrifying. You gotta read this!
Reviewer: Cindy Gunnin

Book Description:

There’s an unknown mountain in Appalachia called Devil’s Oven, a place where extraordinary, dark things have been happening for centuries.

Ivy Luttrell, a lonely seamstress, finds a man’s dismembered body, barely covered by the rich soil of her beloved mountain. Instead of alerting the authorities, Ivy keeps the man for herself, stitching him back together with her own skilled hands. It might have been the beginning to a fairy tale, but when the fearsome power of Devil’s Oven gives the man life, he escapes Ivy’s control and terrorizes Alta, her small mountain town.

Bud Tucker, a local businessman and owner of The Twilight Club, has money problems and a restless, red-headed wife, Lila, who has too much time on her hands. Easygoing Bud has relied too heavily on the advice of his second-in-command, Dwight, a squirrelly guy from up east, and now he’s in the sites of some very unpleasant people. But no one is prepared when one of Bud’s employees is viciously murdered, least of all, Lila, who is quickly drawn into the madness that Ivy has brought down on them all.

Their salvation lies in the hands of a mysterious newcomer, a delicate young stripper named Jolene, whose connection to Devil’s Oven is even deeper and more mysterious than Ivy’s. As the violence grows around them, Jolene is torn between her secret loyalties and her affection for Bud and the other people she’s come to know. Her choice will change life on Devil’s Oven forever.

Part Gothic folk tale, part Frankensteinian nightmare, Devil’s Oven breaks the bonds of the traditional horror novel, combining lyrical storytelling with bone-chilling, surreal suspense.


Even if Laura Benedict was not one of my favorite people in the world, I’d still say you’ve got to read this book. I was lucky enough to get to be a beta reader for the author. I have it on my Kindle and a hard copy on my book shelf, it’s just that good.

The story is simple enough, at least to start with. Ivy, a spinster seamstress who has spent her whole life taking care of other people finds a man on the mountain, Devil’s Oven. Of course, she can’t just keep a man she finds out on the mountain, right? Especially one she found in pieces?

Ivy stitches him back together, but much like Frankenstein’s monster, the man is not the companion that Ivy hopes he will be. Terrible things start happening in town and the question becomes whether the man monster is to blame or if they should blame the mountain itself. With undertones similar to Stephen King’s Needful Things including the price you pay for getting what you want, Devil’s Oven almost defies genre, being more classic horror than thriller, but certainly not terrifying. Instead, it’s a cautionary tale reminding the reader that the good guy isn’t always the one wearing white.

The story is set in Appalachia and captures the feel of life in the mountains including the love of the mountains and the reality of small town gossip. Laura presents the implausible in such a matter of fact manner and gets everything else so right that the concept of an accidental Frankenstein doesn’t seem unbelievable at all. And when the characters’ backgrounds are revealed, it’s hard not to understand just a little why Ivy might try to make her own man.

One of the nice things about Laura’s writing is that it is accessible. She writes in a way that anyone can appreciate the characters and feel their depth. Her word choices are dead-on perfect, painting the scene in your mind as you read.  Sometimes, I thought I could hear Jolene speak and feel her exhaustion.

The best thing about this book is that the complex relationships of the people in town are just as important as the actual monster, and in some ways, more horrific.  Laura Benedict is definitely one of my favorite writers out there. Try it. She may become one of yours too!

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