Exorcist Falls, the latest from Jonathan Janz via Sinister Grin Press, is two books is one. The story kicks off in Exorcist Road, originally published by the now-defunct Samhain Publishing in 2014, and which gets a reprint here, leading up to the new material presented in Exorcist Falls.
I'm a pretty new fan of Janz's work, after discovering him with last year's release, Children of the Dark, and I hadn't gotten to Exorcist Road prior, so color me overjoyed to finally discover what all the raving about this particular novella was all about. Here, we're introduced to Father Jason Crowder, a priest about to serve his first exorcism, alongside his mentor, Father Sutherland. Young Casey Hartman has been seized by a malevolent force, distracting his policeman uncle, Danny, from the hunt for the savage Sweet Sixteen Killer.
Exorcist Road is a quickly paced novella and lays a lot of groundwork for the story to follow in Exorcist Falls. There's a lot of vividly portrayed harm, both physically and psychologically, against the Hartman family and the priests drawn into a battle of both spirituality and wits. If you're looking for a rock-solid story of exorcism, Exorcist Road is where it's at, and damn if this sucker isn't cinematic as all get-out.
Including both of Janz's Exorcist titles here is a bit of a double-edged sword. I loved Exorcist Road so much, that its follow-up couldn't help but pale in comparison, if only just a little. But make no mistake, Exorcist Falls is far from a bad novel. It's quite good in fact, and I'm at the point where Janz would have to make some seriously delirious missteps to produce a crap story (the dude's a natural pro, in my mind).
Exorcist Falls picks up just hours after the conclusion of Exorcist Road, and Janz pulls a huge 180 in his approach. The prior novella was a straight-forward, in your face, legit exorcism story. The sequel, however, feels at times more like a superhero horror story with Father Crowder taking on the role of crime-fighting priest. There's still plenty of gore and shocks, and a sublimely disturbing denouement, but it never quite reaches the highs of its predecessor. Still, it is a solid, gripping story of good versus evil, with some well-drawn characters and a few surprises.
And even though it didn't capture my attention as much as the sublime Exorcist Road, I have to give Janz credit for approaching the story in the way he did. The execution of the story in Falls is quite a bit different and it inhabits a larger world than its predecessor, which allows Janz to keep the story fresh and avoid repeating so much of the things that worked so well in the original. By opening up the world a little bit, Janz is able to give us more character beats, which are certainly welcome, and a climax that really ups the ante in terms of scope.
I also can't help but wonder if we'll eventually get a third book in this series. Janz leaves himself a good bit of wiggle room to return for more squirms, and I certainly wouldn't mind another go-round when all is said and done. Jonathan Janz is the real deal, and a wonderfully malevolent creator who, if his characters could speak to us, would admit he's possessed by something fierce.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher, Sinister Grin Press, via Hook of a Book Media and Publicity.]
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