Review: The Pumpkin Man by John Everson

Looking for something scary/gory/thrilling to read this Halloween? Well, thanks to the folks at Net Galley, I received a free ARC of “The Pumpkin Man” by John Everson. In this 300+ page thriller, Jennica Murphy seeks to solve the mystery of her father’s gruesome death, while coming to know her aunt’s family by marriage and the strange and horrific legacy they left behind. Stories of the “pumpkin man” have left the small, Northern California town where Jennica is staying (at her aunt’s house which she inherited) on edge. Twenty years ago a man known for his incredible pumpkin carvings was accused of killing children and summarily lynched by the townsfolk. He was Jennica’s aunt’s husband. Now the murders are occurring again, each victim horribly dismembered and with pieces of pumpkin left at the scene of each crime. Using her aunt’s substantial library on the occult and magic, will Jenn solve the mystery of who is the killer before the pumpkin man gets her?

Well, I had my highs and lows on this book. For one thing, I kept reading because I wanted to know who was the murderer and why (though I had pretty much figured it out correctly). Also, so many people got whacked in this book that I kept wondering if the heroine was going to make it to the end! Also I of course love books that occur in Northern Cal as that’s where I’m from. And I like a strong female protagonist. It was creepy and scary and I can imagine it making a great made-for-tv movie around Halloween time. Those are all the good points.

That said, I had some things in this book that didn’t work for me. For instance, near the beginning, after her father’s murder (where pumpkin pieces had been found at the scene of the crime), Jennica finds pumpkin pieces in her bedroom left by an intruder. She doesn’t bother to tell not only the police, but her roommate (!) until much later. Also, as people start disappearing or turning up dead (beheaded, gutted, etc.) or bones/skeletons/skulls/jars of eyeballs are found in the basement, Jenn and her roommate and the two new boyfriends they picked up in a bar in San Francisco discuss several times how they shouldn’t call the police because, after all, who would believe them?? Finally, they involve the police, and figure out that the murders all tie into the family’s weird past and a whole series of subterranean passages, tombs, rooms, shrines, etc. located under the aunt’s house, that may just rival the catacombs of Paris. 

Everson’s writing was inconsistent at times in my opinion. At times it was solid. At other times word choice or sentence construction pulled me out of reading or even made me laugh. The murder scenes were graphic and gory, which I personally never enjoy reading. I have to say, though, I kept reading to the end!

Thanks to Net Galley and the publishers at DP for my free kindle galley copy!

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