Jesse is a coffin maker who lives in Gregor's Hollow, a small town that lives off of tourism with their Poe Pageants, Hitchcock festival, and "ghostly" visitations. Halloween is their biggest season, and the date is fast approaching. Jesse has taken over the coffin making business from his dad who mysteriously disappeared 9 years ago. When Death shows up at Jesse's door to place an order for 8 coffins, things take a sinister turn. With a promise to tell Jesse what happened to his father, Death makes a deal for 8 coffins for the souls he's in town to collect by Halloween. Knowing that these coffins are for people he's grown up with, Jesse does everything in his power to stop Death from taking his friends.
Jesse is hilarious with his self-deprecating humor and sarcastic wit. We meet the people of Gregor's Hollow through his eyes, and the clever descriptions make is easy to get to know this community. Most compelling, though, is the interplay between Death and Jesse.
The only things I had issue with were a few clearly child-of-the-1980s references. First off, Rainbow Brite isn't a cartoon kids watch anymore. So having one of the kids obsessed with the show isn't realistic. I thought maybe this was set in the 1980s, but then Jesse references BB-8, so that wasn't correct. Jesse also mentions picturing "Melanie Griffith perched nude on something posh and marble." Melanie Griffith is 60 years old--not a 20 year old's fantasy. Additionally, I doubt 20-something Jesse knows the word "milquetoast." I like a rich vocabulary, but this word was completely out of the ballpark!
Beyond these minor gripes, I really enjoyed this book. With a twisty-turny plot mixed with great character development all dropped into a rich setting, I couldn't put this down. The plot is deeply layered, so readers may think they're getting an answer to one mystery only to find two more questions lurking in the shadows. I was fascinated and chilled at the same time as the plot drew to a close. Allison has a wonderful lyrical prose she uses to transition time and place. I found the observations and musings of her characters to be so well done. Such delightful prose was the caramel on the apple! I have already started recommending this book to my friends and am excited to see what's on the horizon for Jesse and Gregor's Hollow.
Review also posted via Goodreads HERE.
(2) Searcher of the Dead (A Bess Ellyott Mystery #1) by Nancy Herriman
(3) Isaiah's Daughter by Mesu Andrews