Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Tor (September 21, 2021)
Reviewed by Carson Buckingham

With as much reading in the horror genre that I do, it is often difficult to happen upon a novel that’s really unique, genuinely scary, and not chock full of all the horror tropes I’ve already read…and read…and read.

Then I found HEX.

The sky cleared, the clouds parted, a ray of sunlight reflected off my tears of gratitude, and cherubim sang one perfect chord.

Yeah, it’s that good.

Though it came out in 2016, and is one of the most solid horror novels, start to finish, that I’ve ever read, it doesn’t seem to have received the fanfare it truly deserves. After having read it, I can’t figure out why.

The town of Black Springs’ supernatural presence, a 17th century witch, Katherine Van Dyke now called the Black Rock Witch, is an entity that randomly appears anywhere within the town—including inside residents’ homes. There is even a tracking system to keep tabs on her. It doesn’t worry about being seen, but the townspeople have all kinds of machinations for camouflaging her or hiding her from the views of any outsiders to the town. When this occurs, nobody goes near her or looks at her for too long, but in a darkly humorous note, they will throw a dish towel or some such over her head to keep from looking at her. The witch doesn’t seem to mind.

You don’t want to spend time looking at this witch, whose mouth and eyes are sewn shut.

What I loved about this book was how much revealed human evil as opposed to supernatural evil. There’s a definite supernatural presence, as already stated, and the locals have learned how to adapt their lives to the constant presence of the Black Rock Witch, to the point where it actually ends up making some of the townspeople complacent. It manages to show humans as the frightening creatures we truly are, under our thin veneer of civilization and examines human behavior and mob mentality. The supernatural has a tough race against our own weakness and dark inclinations.

The bored teenagers, on the other hand, are another story. They, like the rest of the populace, cannot leave town for much over a week at a time, and when one of the teens falls in love with an “outsider,” the rest of the town has a lethal problem. When challenging authority in Black Springs, the consequences are devastating. The adults can deal with “it is what it is,” but not the kids. and result is their challenging the Black Rock Witch—never a good idea.

The book builds subtlety and beautifully to the climax, and the ending is perfect. The reader will recognize the influence of “The Monkey’s Paw” as well as Stephen King’s Pet Semetary; and reminiscent of “The Lottery,” it calls our humanity into question.

Heuvelt is a genius. Buy this book and every single one he writes—you won’t be sorry, I promise you.


About Carson Buckingham

Professionally, Carson Buckingham has made her way in life doing all manner of things, most of which involve arson. She is currently employed as a freelance writer on a work release program. In her spare time, she studies forensics, in hopes of applying her new knowledge to eluding the authorities more effectively the next time. She is originally from Connecticut, but now resides in Kentucky—and Connecticut is glad to be rid of her.