In gothic tones, Crestwood Lake depicts an ostensibly quiet, idyllic Vermont lakeside community where evil has moved in. First time author Mark R. Vogel, a psychologist and wine maven who lectures on Jack the Ripper, has created a truly frightening, gory catalog of unexplained killings. All that Chief of Police Butch Morgan is sure of is that there is some common factor among all the horrific deaths of so many Crestwood residents. Some people kill a spouse or lover and then themselves, smashing out walls and spattering their homes with scarlet. Others are found alone in the woods, their bodies inexplicably exploded in carnage. Morgan has an intuition that some malevolent force is responsible, and he suspects that the local wine merchant, a brilliant, arrogant newcomer named Van Haden, may be somehow to blame. Morgan's investigations lead him to a parapsychologist, a local historian, and the town's priest, as he gathers a force of righteous citizens to combat an ancient curse.
Vogel's writing abilities are many, well beyond excellent grammar, tight plot, and fine pacing. He is erudite, well versed in many arcane subjects, languages, and cultures (for example, "Van Haden" is a linguistic play on “from Hades”). He builds his story, bloodbath by bizarre bloodbath, in what could well be a bid for cinematic treatment of the novel. By the end, anyone who enjoys this genre will be well sated with witches, demonic animals, beheadings, eviscerations, odorous decompositions, and things that go bump in the night. One eerie touch that brings the book right into current headlines is the vignette of an airline pilot who crashes his jetliner, killing all on board, hours after he makes his "escape" from the insanity at Crestwood Lake. Horror at its gruesome best, with a teaser ending that promises a sequel, Crestwood Lake could launch its multi-talented author on a new career.
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