For many children, the summer of 1988 was filled with sunshine and laughter. But for ten-year-old Kris Barlow, it was her chance to say goodbye to her dying mother.
Three decades later, loss returns—her husband killed in a car accident. And so, Kris goes home to the place where she first knew pain—to that summer house overlooking the crystal waters of Lost Lake. It’s there that Kris and her eight-year-old daughter will make a stand against grief.
But a shadow has fallen over the quiet lake town of Pacington, Kansas. Beneath its surface, an evil has grown—and inside that home where Kris Barlow last saw her mother, an old friend awaits her return.
Horror After Dark Review
VIOLET is the second full length novel I have read by author Scott Thomas. This is most definitely a character driven novel, with emotional attachment that you can feel from the start. The atmosphere is already building from the very first page, as well as the intense characterization.
Kris Barlow and her young daughter, Sadie, have just suffered the traumatic loss of their husband/father in an accident. While Kris’ feelings are understandably and realistically torn between her own emotions, finances, and adjustment, she also has to shoulder the grief of her daughter. This is the most challenging, as Sadie lapses into a near-silent, joyless existence–no longer the carefree, fun-loving child she used to be.
“. . . once you went into the darkness, you never came out . . . Like the hole in the ground . . . that daddy lived in now.”
Kris makes the decision to move them to a summer home, that was left to her by her father, called “River’s End”, near Lost Lake, in Kansas. Thinking a complete change of scenery will help her daughter to heal, she recalls fond memories of her own youthful summers spent there.
“She had first glimpsed the sparkling ripples playing across the lake’s surface when she was four . . . in 1982 . . . the town had been a quaint lakeside resort for over two decades. That was the Pacington she remembered.”
However, the decades between her last summer there, and their current visit, have not been so kind to the dying town.
“The house looked like a crumbling headstone on a forgotten grave . . .”
I’m not even sure where to begin with how well written, and all consuming this novel was. Thomas shows us the personalities and feelings of our main characters not all at once, but with a gradual progression through each and every page. There is nothing “forced” upon the reader. Rather, I found myself magnetized by the simple, everyday things that Kris and Sadie did–whether it was cleaning up the neglected lakeside house, or merely shopping for supplies. Each detail meant something to me, and revealed a bit more of our characters’ mindsets at a leisurely pace.
“. . . Sometimes it is easier not to know. Life is happier lived in ignorance . . . “
That is not to say that the story felt “slow”, as each minute spent reading had me more invested in the Barlow’s “new life” and healing process.
A process that was multi-layered and more complex than I had first expected.
Even as Kris tried to keep the unpleasant memories of her past mentally buried, it’s felt through all of her thoughts, words, and actions. The town she recalls from her youth has changed, and yet it’s like a psychological puzzle that she no longer has all the pieces to.
“. . . That town, it’s real. But what you’ve got in your head, the way you remember it when you were ten, the town you haven’t let change . . . “
The town itself is almost a character in its own right. Outwardly separate from Kris’ healing intentions, it is nonetheless tethered to her by invisible strings that are never overtly shown. Even the knowledge of some unfortunate happenings in the years since she had last been there, don’t seem to reel her in. Although the fact that others have had their share of suffering, does bring her closer to accepting that she is not alone when it comes to grief.
“. . . There was something comforting in knowing that you were not the only one being unfairly punished by fate . . . “
As the novel progresses, and simple things begin feeling somehow more . . . wrong . . . the pacing continues to feel natural, despite the mounting unease. In a case like this, I would normally find myself frantic for the action–and answers–to pick up, yet in this tale, I was so completely “one” with the narrative, that I couldn’t have thought of changing anything if I tried. Thomas had me fully immersed in the world he had created.
“. . . a puzzle from her past was falling into place whether she liked it or not.”
Even as things with young Sadie began to rapidly change, I was in no hurry to get to the end of the book. I merely wanted to continue gliding along with the flow.
“There are some things that are meant to be left buried . . . “
Overall, I felt that while this was indisputably a horror novel, there were so many elements of sub-genres included that I felt I was getting a taste of everything. I connected strongly with the psychological aspects, the mystery, deepening suspense, emotional upheavals, memory repression, danger, and acceptance.
“. . . The pieces had fallen into place, even the ones she had tried so hard to hide from herself . . . “
This was a novel of discovery in a myriad of forms; of the response to grief, guilt, and so many more complex combinations of emotions.
“People heal in different ways.”
From the dramatic, yet leisurely beginning, to the jaw-dropping revelations and questions brought to the foreground near the end, I was completely entranced by this novel each and every page of the journey. This is a book that you simply have to read for yourself to full appreciate.
“. . . the hardest truth life has to offer: happiness is not guaranteed . . . “
About The Author
Scott Thomas is the Stoker-nominated author of Kill Creek, which was selected by the American Library Association’s reader committee as the top horror book of 2017. Originally from Coffeyville, Kansas, Scott attended the University of Kansas where he earned degrees in English and Film. He has written TV movies and teleplays for various networks including Netflix, Syfy, MTV, VH1, the CW, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and ABC family. Scott was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his work on R.L. Stein’s The Haunting Hour. He lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his wife and two daughters.