DEVIL'S CREEK by Todd Keisling

About fifteen miles west of Stauford, Kentucky lies Devil’s Creek. According to local legend, there used to be a church out there, home to the Lord’s Church of Holy Voices—a death cult where Jacob Masters preached the gospel of a nameless god.

And like most legends, there’s truth buried among the roots and bones.

In 1983, the church burned to the ground following a mass suicide. Among the survivors were Jacob’s six children and their grandparents, who banded together to defy their former minister. Dubbed the “Stauford Six,” these children grew up amid scrutiny and ridicule, but their infamy has faded over the last thirty years.

Now their ordeal is all but forgotten, and Jacob Masters is nothing more than a scary story told around campfires.

For Jack Tremly, one of the Six, memories of that fateful night have fueled a successful art career—and a lifetime of nightmares. When his grandmother Imogene dies, Jack returns to Stauford to settle her estate. What he finds waiting for him are secrets Imogene kept in his youth, secrets about his father and the church. Secrets that can no longer stay buried.

The roots of Jacob’s buried god run deep, and within the heart of Devil’s Creek, something is beginning to stir…

The IndieMuse Review

Give me that old-time religion!

As a horror fan, you are probably used to seeing a flood of books compared to Stephen King, or writers declared as ‘the next Stephen King’. It is often a lazy comparison and usually an undeserved one. It was an absolute pleasure to find that Todd Keisling’s new book, Devil’s Creek, is the exception to the rule.

Set in the bible belt town of Stauford, Kentucky in 1983, the story opens on Jacob Masters, a preacher turned cult leader who is leading his devoted flock in a ritual involving the sacrifice of his six children in order to appease a dark god who intends to use their suffering to bring about a new and terrifying world order. When the ritual is interrupted Jacob is seemingly stopped, but his new god has other plans for him.

In present-day, the survivors of the cult are living their lives under the scrutiny of the town, forever labelled as cultists and heathens. One of the surviving children, Jack Tremly, returns to Stauford when hearing of the death of his beloved grandmother Imogene. His return will put in motion events that may reignite the unfinished business of his past and bring about the terrifying rule of a nameless god.

The story is told over two time periods (in the same vein as IT) while mixing the small-town horror of Salem’s Lot and juggling a staggering cast of characters to rival The Stand. There are liberal lashings of Revival and the ending is pure Needful Things insanity. Stephen King is clearly a big influence on this book.

In the afterward, Keisling speaks of how this book was started in 2007, not finished until almost 12 years later in early 2019. The time spent on this book is reflected in the quality of what’s on the page. It’s an incredibly ambitious novel and has a huge cast of characters to serve. It does so effortlessly. Each character feels fully realised and has a vital part to play in proceedings. The story itself is all tied together so beautifully. Small mentions of seemingly insignificant things are mentioned in passing early in the book and come back into play in a big way later on. Every action matters here, and each plot point or story note dovetails expertly at the end for an intensely satisfying whole. It’s incredibly accomplished, meticulous in its details and massive in scope.

Horror books centred around cults are very much at the forefront of the genre at the moment, and I’m hard pushed to think of a better current example. It balances its tense build-up with its violent excesses perfectly and fans of either approach should leave thoroughly satisfied.

A slow burn start, with masterful character work and tense build-up to an explosive finish, this novel will grip you and not let go until the final page. Comparisons to King aside, it would be no surprise at all if we are seeing new writers proclaimed as the ‘next Todd Keisling’ in the not too distant future, and deservedly so.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

2 reviews for DEVIL’S CREEK by Todd Keisling

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  1. Tiffiny Tallent  

    Fabulous read. Do not miss this one, it is one of the authors best.

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  2. Shalonda Dorey  

    This was a really entertaining book, I’d highly recommend it. The characters were believable, the plot was interesting.

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