I was instantly sucked in to Where Stars Won’t Shine, which begins with an excerpt from a book about infamous serial killer Tucker Ashton, who ended his reign of terror with a mass killing spree in a little Massachusetts town called Marlowe. This intro puts the reader right in the thick of reality, in a world where evil lives and breeds and gets glorified, but also where traumatized people have to live with the consequences of that evil. A world not all that dissimilar from our world.
True crime is having more than a moment right now; as a culture we seem to be fascinated into obsession with killers, strange crimes, and finding out why. Perhaps it’s a need to assert some balance in a world that is spinning wildly out of control. If we can just figure out what makes people tick, maybe that will make everything make sense.
While Tucker Ashton’s world begins simply enough, things start spiraling out of control pretty quickly. There is something wrong with the town of Marlowe, and Ivy, whose boyfriend was a victim of Ashton’s; Ethan, who grew up in Marlowe and is now tangled in some bad business; and Zeke, who is obsessed with the killer to the point of hero worship are all about to find out what is really going on. You can bet they aren’t going to like it.
This is an excellent horror novel. It considers different perspectives, such as Ivy’s grief and loss and how that physically and emotionally manifests for her—very powerful! Ethan’s story is compelling too, and you see how easy it is for people to sink to a life of crime when it is for a good reason. And Zeke—he is the most uncomfortable character of all, because if you are interested in true crime, you probably see a little bit of yourself in him. It is so easy to make the killer the central part of the story because we want to know what makes them different, when it is really the victims that deserve the spotlight. So the characterization of the book really worked for me, setting up a compelling background to drive the action of the book.
Because once you get into the action, it is going to get crazy. I did not see this book taking all the strange twists and turns that it did, but I was along for the ride despite it getting weirder and weirder because I was attached to the characters and their story. That’s good writing.
The book wasn’t a complete home run for me. I think there could have been better development of the action at the climax, especially based on how the tension was built throughout. One of the characters gets a bit underused and I kept waiting for her to be further developed throughout the novel. But it really does stick the landing and ends up being a thoroughly satisfying read.
My thanks to the author and Grindhouse Press for sending copies of this one to the Night Worms to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.