T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places hits bookstores and online retailers today. It’s an entertaining tale of alternate realities, friendship, and perhaps the oddest museum of curiosities known to man.
Kara aka Carrot is not really living her best life as the novel opens. Her marriage has ended, and she’s faced with moving in with her parents to make ends meet until she can get back on her feet when an unexpected call comes in from her eccentric uncle, Earl.
Earl isn’t the healthiest he’s ever been and he extends an invitation for her to stay with him and help run his museum, humorously called The Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy. Overcome by nostalgia and seeking what seems a safer shelter than living with her overbearing mother, Kara quickly agrees.
She soon finds herself running the shop on her own while Earl recuperates from knee surgery, and everything is running smoothly until she finds a hole in the drywall upstairs. The hole isn’t the real problem, however, as she soon discovers what appears to be a hidden hallway on the other side of the wall that should not exist.
With the help of her new best friend, Simon, who runs the next-door coffee shop for his sister, the wall is soon opened up and when they pass through it, they find themselves in a terrifying new world where nothing is what it seems, everything is deadly, and a scrawled message on the wall “Pray they are hungry” has them running for their lives.
Kingfisher is an excellent and enviable storyteller.
From the first page, she draws us to Kara with wry wit and a feeling that she is someone we know, someone we can care about and root for as she faces the road ahead. In fact, there are moments when the reader is having so much fun that they are expertly lured into forgetting that horrors could and are lying around the corner.
Moreover, those horrors are fantastically unique. I won’t say much more than that, but among other things, you will never look at willow trees the same way ever again.
Yet even then, Kara is completely relatable, especially in 2020, in her approach. Of course she’s terrified, but there is a sense of “Oh, so this is what we’re doing now?” in her reactions that I can honestly say I seem to have on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis this year.
Speaking of character work, it would be a huge oversight on my part to not speak to the character of Simon. I love him a lot in this book, and honestly, would love an entirely new book just based around him. He’s a gay character in a horror novel that is so much more than a stereotype. In fact, he actively defies some while embracing others much like most of the real life gay men in my life, myself included.
It was utterly gratifying to see this man working together with Kara, becoming her friend, helping her and being helped by her. Could the character arc have used some more fleshing out? Sure. But there is still plenty to sink your teeth into with Simon and I want to thank Kingfisher for the gift of this character.
Throughout The Hollow Places there is frivolity among the horror. Kingfisher invites us to hold her hand and skip toward certain doom and by God, we’re going to skip and probably sing a song or two along the way. I was reminded more than once of the giddy glee of watching The Evil Dead or Tales from the Crypt for the first time. It’s not an easy balancing act, but one that the author pulls off with alacrity.
You can order your copy of The Hollow Places by CLICKING HERE, and I cannot recommend enough that you do so. It’s the perfect read as we inch toward Halloween!