Reviewed by Benoit Chartier
Brandon is your average Ontarian town. The fictionalized 90’s Cornwall, where the author grew up, lies to one side of the Saint Lawrence River, which separates Canada and the US. As the citizens would tell you, it is so average that most dream of leaving, and many do. This story begins with the tales of those who either are biding their time, have made their peace with their lot, or have come to this town for reasons they’d rather keep quiet. What no one knows, and are about to discover, is that something dark has been attracted to the town. Something that won’t rest until there’s nothing left of Brandon.
John Daniel is a nice high school kid who likes to ride his bike with his buddy Greg. He’s in love with Alexandria, who prefers dating the wrong sort. When he wakes up one morning by the side of the railroad track and has to sneak home in his soiled pajamas, he’ll have to solve the first of many mysteries which will begin to plague his life.
Henry Tanner, an elderly, retired firefighter has befriended the new policeman in town, David. Henry can see the dive that Brandon is taking. Recession, loss of jobs, all those elements that make a place ripe for discontent. He always has a drink and an ear ready for his new-found friend. He might know something about what will befall the town, if he could only remember…
Officer David Forester is the new man in town. He keeps his past fairly close to his chest, but apart from that, he’s an exemplary police officer. This is highly contrasted by the rest of the police force, which is embroiled in petty bribery and turning a blind eye to blatant law breaking. David must tread lightly, though, if he doesn’t want his secrets revealed.
When an old steam train shows up in town with a truly odd conductor, people start disappearing. Those who do show up again, haven’t changed for the better. It’s up to those who haven’t been lured by it to discover what it is, and why it has come, before they become its next target.
These and a wide cast of characters are those that inhabit the world that Ottawa author James K. Moran has created. One of the many great things about this story is that it is seamless. There is a perfect balance of elements, from narration to description, plot to execution. It is written in a straightforward style, which creates an incredible ease of reading. Moran reminds me of early Stephen King novels, in that there is always something interesting around the corner. Both Moran and King dip you into the horror one toe at a time. This has always been my favorite kind of horror; shivers and heart-thumping goodness. A great book for those who enjoy King, and all things horror.
Town and Train is published by Lethe Press.