Book Review: Scarecrows by Christine Hayton

25234465Title: Scarecrows

Author: Christine Hayton

Genre: Horror, Dark Fiction

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

They do more than frighten birds. Much more.

Early one morning in the fall of 1964, Robert searched for his missing six-year-old daughter, Cathy. He found her asleep in a nearby cornfield, covered in blood and holding a small axe. A few feet away lay the mutilated body of her classmate Emily.

Assumed guilty of murder, Cathy lived in a hospital for insane children. She always gave the same account of what happened. She talked of murderous scarecrows that roamed the cornfield on moonlit nights. Her doctors considered her delusional. The police, her neighbors and the press thought she was dangerous. And so she remained incarcerated. No one believed her. That was a mistake.

Scarecrows ia horror novella that, although failing to be terrifying, does make one feel grossed out at times, and does have its scary moments. The book reads much like a murder mystery however, and doesn’t quite reach the scare level I expected it would. That is surprising, considering scarecrows are some of the scariest things out there.

Cathy is barely six years old when she commits murder. At least, that’s what local authorities believe. Cathy was found asleep in a cornfield, covered in blood and holding a small axe, with the mutilated body of her friend Emily only a few feet away. Assumed guilty, Cathy is put into a mental hospital for insane children. But Cathy never stopped telling her story of what really happened: scarecrows did it.

And the Scarecrows aren’t quite finished yet. With doctors slowly believing Cathy wasn’t responsible for the murders, and with other strange things happening around town, the question rises whether Cathy was telling the truth after all.

With a premise like that, it’s tough to see how it could go wrong, yet it does. Part of that is because the characters don’t seem realistic. Even though they found Cathy covered in blood, her parents seem all too eager to accept her guilt. Wouldn’t a parent fight for their kid’s innocence, especially when the kid indicates they didn’t do it and never before portrayed violent behavior? Then, the behavior of the psychiatrists is questionable too. One of them even decides to live on the farm where Cathy lived, dedicating months to this single case without having any real connection to it prior to this. And the original psychiatrist’s storyline goes nowhere, leaving us with a dead end as suddenly we get this new psychiatrist seemingly out of the blue.

Cathy is impossible to connect with. She’s six years old (and eight after being released from the mental institution) but she appears much older. None of the characters are easy to connect with, and the dialogue feels unnatural and stiffed.

The book focuses on the scarecrows mostly in the second part, but still never reaches beyond the level of a murder mystery. It’s not horror since there’s no real suspense. At times, the book is painstakingly slow, and other times, the narrative jumps all over the place.

It’s not a bad story, and as a murder mystery it has an interesting eough angle, but as a horror book, it falls flat, providing no sense of creepiness whatsoever.

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