Elizabeth Massie has created something unique here with Desper Hollow, a gritty backwoods zombie story that isn’t the campy horror read you might be expecting after taking in the book’s back cover:
“Jenkie Mustard loses control of the zombies she created in Desper Hollow, as Granny’s magic moonshine raises trouble from the dead in the Virginia hills.
It begins when hardheaded mountain matriarch Granny Mustard decides she wants to live forever. Then she dies. Her slow-witted but equally hardheaded granddaughter Jenkie decides to pick up the ball and run with it, taking Granny’s unperfected immortality moonshine recipe, a socially-inept friend named Bink, and dreams of fame and fortune to an abandoned, isolated trailer up in Desper Hollow.
But slow-witted doesn’t stand against the terrible mountain power Granny initiated. Jenkie’s experiments with the immortality moonshine only worsen the trouble with Granny’s original recipe, bringing dead critters and a few stray folks back to a state of hungry, vicious, mindless animation. Now a stash of the living dead is locked up in the back of the trailer, a howling herd that has Jenkie terrified. And Armistead, one of the red-eyed living dead, seems way too alert for comfort.
Mountain resident Kathy Shaw and Hollywood reality show pitchman Jack Carroll find themselves caught up in the growing terror surrounding Desper Hollow. They can’t avoid it and must face it head on. So must Armistead, who fights the fog of his ghastly condition to discover the truth of who he really is.”
While Desper Hollow wasn’t one of my favorite reads from Apex Publication, it definitely fits into the more intriguing category simply because I felt this book should either have been a bit shorter or a tad longer. Massie throws together a curious core cast of characters: the zombie Armistead, disgusting Jenkie, and the surprisingly clumsy mountain girl Kathy, while mixing in a few others that could do with some expanding, such as Kathy’s father (the preacher), the Mustard brothers, and Sam & Jack (which I continually kept mixing them up).
Desper Hollow switches viewpoints from one main character to the next as each individual takes his or her path back to the heart of Granny Mustard’s concoction in an attempt to solve their own internal problems. Kathy needs to find out why her father feels responsible for the town’s misfortunes. Jenkie wants to become famous with her special moonshine. Jack is hoping to hit the next big reality T.V. jackpot and, most curious of all, the zombie Armistead trying to rehash his foggy brain crazed memory and figure out his purpose for being.
The biggest drawback to Desper Hollow lies within the aforementioned characters, as interesting and quirky as they might be, this group tended to bumble along without a strong central lead. Kathy wasn’t the strong heroine she should have been. All in all I really enjoyed Desper Hollow, but if you are expecting a campy horror/zombie read this isn’t it. Desper Hollow has deeper character conflicts than a simple hack and slash thriller.