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Goat Song
Thomas Drago, author
Not everyone belongs. Not everyone knows where they should be. The world pushes us but not always in the right direction. Sometimes we end up where we don’t want to go. Where we can’t trust what we see or believe what we feel. Displaced in small-town North Carolina, Gabriela Rossi works as a stage manager at the Orpheum Theatre, less than two years after abandoning her home in rural Italy. Less than two years after Papa’s death. After she left Mamma alone. Gabriela’s arrival is unexpected. Her peers resent her. Most distrust her. When the company’s producer is murdered, Gabriela follows a trail of ghosts and demons into hidden underground tunnels where she must stop an ancient ritual to raise the dead before the entire town is destroyed. Before the world she clings to slips through her fingers. Before her only choice is to turn back and risk losing all that she loves forever.
This intricate horror novel, Drago’s fourth (after Winter) set in Crow Creek, N.C., incorporates elements of character-driven drama and small-town mystery as well as the eerie supernatural. Gabriela Rossi is an Italian expat who’s taken a job as a stage manager at the local Orpheum Theatre. Almost two years after arriving in America, she still struggles to make friends but is comforted by being close to her only relative this side of the Atlantic, her cousin Deborah. When her show’s producer is murdered, Gabriela is pulled into the labyrinthine subterranean spaces of Crow Creek. After Gabriela discovers a sinister plot to raise the dead, she must find allies fast, before an ancient evil is unearthed from below the town.

Drago writes with a keen eye for detail, and his characters are immediately appealing and multi-faceted. Gabriela’s struggles with leaving her home country and fitting into a small town are rendered sympathetically. Brad Gleason, the beleaguered but competent Crow Creek sheriff, is equally likable. The two have an undeniable chemistry that’s refreshing and doesn’t feel forced, and Drago balances the development of their relationship with the increasingly desperate paranormal situation. It’s clear that Brad is older than mid-20s Gabriela—he served in the military, was married, and had a child before Gabriela was born—but she’s not unworldly; she reminisces about a previous sexual relationship in which she was the more experienced partner. Their May-December romance is plausibly handled and sweetly affectionate.

Drago breathes new life into the common tropes of a small town holding awful secrets, town residents not being what they seem, and the local medical facility testing drugs on an unassuming population. Seasoned horror readers will appreciate how familiar concepts end up serving the larger narrative in a satisfying way. This novel stands alone, but new readers will eagerly pick up the earlier installments to learn more about the strange goings-on in Crow Creek.

Takeaway: This intricate novel’s believable small-town setting and likable protagonists will draw in readers of supernatural horror.

Great for fans of Stephen King’s ’Salem’s Lot, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Production grades
Cover: A+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A