The Halloween Children by Brian James Freeman and Norman Prentiss
Available: Used hardcover, Kindle edition
The Halloween Children, a novel of suburban and familial horror from Bram Stoker Award winner Norman Prentiss and Brian James Freeman of Cemetery Dance Publications, takes place at the Stillbrook Apartments. There, the grounds and property are well maintained, the tenants are diverse, and the problems of the day seem to slip away once they get home. On the surface, everything is perfect. However, things start to happen when the annual Halloween party is cancelled…bad things.
We see the trouble unfold through three different characters’ narratives. Harrison Naylor, the maintenance man lives on site with his wife Lynn and their two children Mattie and Amber, reveals his story in a type of confessional. Harrison is aggressive toward everyone. He resents his wife and complains of the way she neglects their son, instead giving her attention to their daughter. There are clearly some marital issues going on here. His story is delivered as a type of confessional, Then there is his job. Harrison’s work life is mostly satisfying, but his boss has been making things difficult recently. Harrison is instructed by management to deliver fliers to tenants cancelling the annual Halloween party, under the guise of keeping them safe. When Harrison receives a call one night from a tenant he’s particularly annoyed by, he reluctantly goes to investigate noises in the vacant apartment above her, and finds the first of the grisly events to come.
Lynn’s narrative is laid out in a sort of diary she is writing at the recommendation of her marriage counselor, who she sees without her husband. Lynn is suspicious and passive-aggressive toward her husband, and resents her role as caretaker of the children and household. She works from home, so she always knows what’s going on in the neighborhood, but the only contact she has with the outside world is as a troubleshooter of tech problems for disgruntled people. Could her isolation from the world, her marital issues, and the fact she has started spying on Mattie and Amber be affecting her mind? One thing is certain: she fears her children.
Tenant Jessica Shephard’s story is told through disturbing and cryptic emails that she sends to a friend, asking bizarre questions about the human body, and making reference to the other tenants of the complex, and the Halloween Children. Who are they, and why are they always watching?
The author creates a lot of tension from the first page. Much of what happened caused me to question the accuracy of Harrison’s and Lynn’s narrations as they are clearly at odds with themselves, their relationship, and the children. However, as things unravel, it is clear there is more going on than just paranoia, guilt, and familial problems. The question is, what is going on at Stillbrook Apartments? Recommended.
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker