After one of her students disappears from class, inner-city high school teacher Annalise is bound and determined to discover why. Jadyn is a surprisingly successful student from the Jasmine Heights ghettos, a slum that has only produced four graduates over the course of several decades. While everyone else is content to chalk up Jadyn's absence as nothing more than a typical drop-out, Annalise is hopeful. She ventures into the heart of Jasmine Heights, to a part of the city she's been warned away from, a city block where not even police or gangs feels safe enough to tread, and into the lair of the Halloween man, who haunts the slums as a murderous urban legend...or who may perhaps be something else altogether.
Dan Padavona does a great job giving us a heroine to root for in Annalise. She's sympathetic and stubborn, willing to defy the school's administration to do what she believes is right by her students. She's an endearing figure, even as her hard-headedness puts her directly in the path of danger. I spent this whole novella rooting for her, and the author portrayed her fish out of water, outsider status rather effectively.
It's in the creation and execution of the Halloween man where Padavona really excels. Although the gritty urban streets and status of legend that surround the Halloween man give Quilt a serious Candyman vibe - a tone I suspect Padavona happily played up in the naming of his character - this novella's second half goes for broke in some truly hair-raising sequences that gave me a serious case of the creepy-crawlies. Once he stands revealed, the Halloween man is a nicely depraved and bloodthirsty creation of horror with heck of an MO.
Quilt is a solid read, even if it does recall a number of other similar stories in reader's minds and displays its influences rather openly. While it feels too much like a composite of other works of horror, it is at least highly readable and engaging. I absolutely had to know what was going to happen next, what would follow on the next page, and what, exactly, lurked around the corner, in the dark, waiting for me. Having bought this as a 99c new release, I can positively state I certainly got my money's worth. As a reader new to Padavona, I can also say Quilt was a fine introduction to this author and I'm curious to explore his other stories in short order. Mission accomplished, Mr. Padavona. Bonus points for the slick, highly effective cover art from Kealan Patrick Burke!
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