“Book Review: Haunting In Old Tailem”
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
Supernatural horror visits outback Australia in this unique and eerie third installment
When Clarisse accompanies her partner Harry on a work trip to the rural pioneer town of Old Tailem, she’s excited to delve into its paranormal history. Clarisse is no stranger to supernatural activity, and she knows something evil is lurking in this sleepy little community. It doesn’t take her long to realize that Little Charlie, a long-dead ghost from the last haunt she visited, has followed her. Any hope of moving him peacefully to the afterlife is dashed when he joins the ghostly children of Old Tailem, those whose souls belong to a demon in death.
After years without disappearances, the demon is becoming active again. Old Tailem, Clarisse soon learns, is about to get a revival. Busloads of tourists are set to attend the town’s paranormal tour and children’s fair. If she doesn’t act, it’s almost certain that more children will be lost. What she does not reckon with is how much stronger little Charlie has made the demon by bringing a whole new slew of evil tricks to town.
Haunting in Old Tailem is the third book in the Haunting Clarisse series. While there are a few mentions of events that have come before, this is very much readable as a stand-alone. It sits well in the horror genre, but there are a few nice distinctive touches to the novel that separates it from the field.
For example, setting this paranormal horror novel in Australia is a fantastic and unique choice. The story retains the creepiness of other books in the horror genre, but the lively setting offers a distinctive flavor; the atmosphere and characters feel authentic with a smattering of Aussie slang, bush, and fauna. On top of that, the writing is accessible and smooth.
While the sun and heat of the outback wouldn’t be the first thing people associate with ghosts, they lose none of their terror factor here. The lonely church and its accompanying graveyard are as spine-chilling as they come. The fact that, in this town, sometimes children are dragged off into the vast bushland never to return adds a whole other dimension to the fear. A dimension that is very much in line with early Australian dread of the land. The novel mixes traditional horror elements, like evil dolls, powerful Shamans, and ghostly children, with a very real fear of the harsh and unforgiving landscape.
While Clarisse is likeable, she isn’t quite as proactive as I’d expect out of our main character. She seeks out people who can help her, but she rarely works on her own strategies, which I’m in need of in a sort of paranormal thriller like this one. When it comes to the heavy lifting—reading up on the town, studying the evil, the demons—she falls short. Clarisse might be the driving force in getting Harry to do the research, but, aside from that, she’s mainly a vehicle for watching the story unfold.
Haunting in Old Tailem sets up a perfectly eerie atmosphere in rural Australia. Despite the blistering heat, the chills are palpable. This supernatural horror novel comes with some lovely twists that keep me reading, engaged, and fearful for what comes next.
Category: Supernatural horror
Paperback: 266 pages
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