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Publisher's Summary

When photographer Jonathan Brewster’s four-year-old daughter, Joanne, tells him about her new invisible friends, he doesn’t think too much about it. But then he sees them for himself: weird and uncanny images of the dead appearing in his photographs. The apparitions seem to have some connection to Childgrave, a remote village in upstate New York with a deadly secret dating back three centuries. Jonathan and Joanne feel themselves oddly drawn to Childgrave, but will they survive the horrors that await them there?
The third novel by Ken Greenhall (1928-2014), whose works are receiving renewed attention as neglected classics of modern horror, Childgrave (1982) is a slow-burn chiller that ranks among Greenhall’s best.
“Writing in Shirley Jackson’s precise, sharp, chilly prose, Greenhall delivers a slippery book that can’t be pinned down, all about spectral photography, little dead girls, snowbound small towns, and the disquieting proposition that maybe God is not civilized.” - Grady Hendrix, author of Paperbacks from Hell
“A very well-orchestrated, eerie tale.” - Publishers Weekly
©1982, 2017 Ken Greenhall (P)2017 Valancourt Books, LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Sharon P on 01-17-18

I need more synonyms for *creepy*

Would you listen to Childgrave again? Why?

Creepy, Eerie, Slow (but nicely paced)

Any additional comments?

The story follows main character Jonathan, a photographer, widower, and father to Joanne, one of the creepiest little girls in fiction. Jonathan is pretty creepy himself. He becomes obsessed with a harpist named Sara. Although he describes her as beautiful, she remains somewhat plain in appearance while still having a profound power over the photographer who desperately wants to photograph her. He continually calls her beautiful but our narrator has a way of making somewhat grand statements that sound more like he is trying to convince himself more than trying to convince the reader. I go back and forth not trusting him and also thinking that he is a misogynistic pig. He’s probably both. Alas, the book was written in another time, to which I am grateful because the pace is perfection. It is slow but I write that not in a negative light. It reads like moving through an old haunted house: a great deal of anticipation with eerie scenes throughout.

To add to the eeriness, the daughter Joanne has an imaginary friend, whom readers will learn is not so imaginary and not so alive anymore. This really isn’t a spoiler if you read the description of the book. Even without discussing this friend, Joanne makes uncanny statements about hoping she has another birthday and wondering if her father will miss her when she dies.

When Jonathan cuts his finger and begins to bleed, Sara licks the blood. He laughs commenting about vampires and Sara’s response is a bit eerie. It would be too easy for her to actually be a vampire, right? Intending for readers to view her as mysterious, her character comes across more like an abandoned exoskeleton. Is there any substance under that shell? She would be the first to note that she does not know what Jonathan sees in her. As a reader, I'm not sure either. And pseudo spoiler alert: when Sara finally stops being coy and Jonathan is allowed into her bedroom, their first sexual encounter is, err, sensually odd. Sorry, I cannot come up with a better description. That scene is going to stay with me like the sex scene in Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love that references a squashed cockroach. Alright, it may be just a wee bit less impactful that Dunn’s.

The book reads as if Greenhall had two great ideas for a novel but only had one book deal so he just wove them together. Somehow it works. It resembles a Victorian ghost story and an M. Night Shyamalan film. To write any more would give it away.

I was engaged almost to the last page even though much of the time included being puzzled over the characters’ choices. Nevertheless, it was a great read and I recommend it if you have not picked it up.

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