Book Review: Niceville by Carsten Stroud

13151175Title: Niceville
Author: Carsten Stroud
Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction
Age Group: Adult (18+)
Rating: 1 star
Purchase: Amazon, B&N

Something is wrong in Niceville. . .

A boy literally disappears from Main Street.  A security camera captures the moment of his instant, inexplicable vanishing. An audacious bank robbery goes seriously wrong: four cops are gunned down; a TV news helicopter is shot and spins crazily out of the sky, triggering a disastrous cascade of events that ricochet across twenty different lives over the course of just thirty-six hours.
Nick Kavanaugh, a cop with a dark side, investigates. Soon he and his wife, Kate, a distinguished lawyer from an old Niceville family, find themselves struggling to make sense not only of the disappearance and the robbery but also of a shadow world, where time has a different rhythm and where justice is elusive.

. . .Something is wrong in Niceville, where evil lives far longer than men do.

Compulsively readable, and populated with characters who leap off the page, Niceville will draw you in, excite you, amaze you, horrify you, and, when it finally lets you go, make you sorry you have to leave.
Read the first thirty-five pages.  Find out why Harlan Coben calls Carsten Stroud the master of “the nerve-jangling thrill ride.”

Niceville is probably the strangest, most boring book I’ve ever read. Why is it boring? Because it makes no sense. It starts out interesting enough with a boy disappearing from Main Street in broad daylight, while he was glancing through a mirror in a pawn shop. One moment he’s there, the other moment he’s not. When I read this part of the synopsis, I was hooked. Then they find the boy inside a tomb, which hasn’t been opened in years, traumatized to the point that he falls into a coma for years. Still going strong.

Then the book completely changes, like somehow it morphed from a horror novel into a crime novel, and it’s not a good change. We meet three robbers who are on the run after robbing Niceville’s most prominent bank. Neither of these robbers are remotely interesting. They’re vulgar, happy to shoot anyone on their way, and anything but scary. In fact, if they’d been left out of the story from the get-go, then the book would’ve had some potential. As the book is now, way too much time is spend on the robbery and the consequences, on the gangsters themselves and their destiny, and it’s all as boring as it can get. Then there are the cop stories, which don’t work either.

In the end, this book is a mismatch of stories glued together, although they barely make sense together. Some parts of the book worked, like that old lady disappearing in her creepy mansion. That was brilliant, and I really enjoyed that scene. For all I cared, it could’ve just skipped from the disappearing boy and finding him again to the old lady vanishing and the cops investigating the vanishing case. The robbery made no sense in the context, and when it was tied in to the other events in the end, it didn’t convince me. The writing style was sloppy and dull, like the author lack affection for words.  Chapters are chopped off midway and we’re sent to another perspective and another place in the next, only to pick up where we left off several chapters later. Sometimes this approach may work, but Carsten Stroud’s Niceville is a prime example of when it doesn’t work.

The characters are bland and boring. I’ve finished reading the book two days ago, and already I can’t remember the name of the robbers. Nor do I care. The main characters are the missing boy, Rainey, and a police detective named Nick and his wife Kate. Would the story just have evolved around these three, it would’ve been a lot more interesting. Nick has the start of a personality, shaped by the idea of a history, but he doesn’t fully deliver. He’s like an idea, not something fully developed. Rainey has no personality, and Kate lingers in between.

The idea behind the book isn’t half bad. A town shrouded in mystery with several families locked in the middle of it and an ancient family mystery tying them all together and luring them to the darkness. I liked that – the town setting was claustrophobic, the ghost appearances intriguing. All the rest falls flat though, and the idea lacks proper execution.

One start for trying. I doubt I’ll pick up the second book in the series.


  1. Donna Fisher says

    I totally agree with this review. Something is Wrong WITH Niceville, and I’d like a refund for the book and my wasted time in reading it. the book is so chopped up, changing chapters (and the related story lines) so frequently and introducing new characters so continuously, that you cannot remember who did what or what they did. And, the bait and switch is the real problem with the book: there is no ending, or even the attempt at one, making this simply a few chapters of a longer book for which you must buy more chapters (sequels) to find out why these things are happening. Don’t waste either your time or money on this book.

  2. Carsten Stroud says

    Dear whomever wrote this dim-witted amateurish crap, I refer you to Stephen King, who describes the series as “crazy good …like nothing you have ever read … a cross between Steve King and William Faulkner … ” so in the future if you want to be a critic, start by learning how to read … in your case, that might be asking too much, especially if your lips are taped shut …

    • It’s not because Stephen King enjoyed a book that I, or anyone else for that matter, has to enjoy it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’ve allowed this comment, but future insulting comments will be deleted.

Speak Your Mind