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by Chad Nicholas

Rating: ****

In Nightmare, we met Scott, husband and father of four, desperately trying to maintain a normal, family life despite the traumatic events of his past starting to overwhelm him. The nightmares grow worse, the crows return and the scarecrow keeps watching him. Could it be that some monsters never remain buried?

Nightmare is fast-paced, frightening, psychological fiction that is hard to put down. The prologue is good old-fashioned supernatural horror and from the beginning chapter, we are quickly aware of issues and conflicts within the family unit and Scott himself. The atmosphere is heavy with dread anxiety. The constant motif of the crows is incredibly well-done, inciting a creeping fear and a truly unpleasant foreboding of doom Mr Nicholas really can write horror; moments of utter terror are cleverly balanced between paragraphs of simmering tension and outright fear. In illustrating the erratic fragility of Scott’s mental state, the writing is unflinching and unnerving.

A number of flashback chapters are woven throughout the novel and they work really well. They are kept economical so that they do not detract from the main plot yet provide backstory and respite from the increasingly scary and unexplained events occurring in the central narrative.

There are plenty of twists and I was kept guessing until about halfway when things become a little clearer. The visual horror really takes off and, at times, it is a relentless pace of gore which is quite harrowing towards the end. I did feel about three-quarters through that the narrative was teetering on the brink of incredulity and there were a few loose ends but it is pulled back round and this is a horror, after all. The main characters are nicely-developed yet Dr Freeman, Karen and April retain a sense of ambiguity which keeps you wondering as the tension builds. I would have liked Scott’s relationship with his parents explored/expanded a bit further and I think Dr Freeman could have possibly been utilised more.

Notwithstanding, I found Nightmare to be a well-written, gripping and unsettling horror. Highly recommended. Buy from:

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