Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Hollow Places, by T. Kingfisher

Gallery Books, ISBN 9781534451124, October 2020

Kara is recently divorced, and living in the spare room in the Wonder Museum that her Uncle Earl conveniently just happened to have ready for her. This means she doesn't have to go stay with her mother; both Kara and Earl know there would surely be murder done if she and her mother (Earl's sister) tried that. And really, Earl isn't as mobile as he used to be, and could use the help running the museum. His knee, in particular, isn't what it used to be.

The museum is filled with pretty strange and weird items, include
 But that's all normal enough, considering this is Uncle Earl and the Wonder Museum. When Earl's knee goes out completely, and he has no choice but to agree to surgery, Kara is lefte  running the museum on her own--and discovers a hole in the wall on the second floor, that opens onto concrete corridors stretching further than is possible in the building the museum is in. Oh, and there's a dead body, reduced almost just to bones, in a room off one of those corridors.

Simon, who runs the other business in the building, the Black Hen coffee shop, becomes her partner in exploring, and trying to understand the existence of, the corridors. Unfortunately, they keep going until they've opened a securely locked door at the top of a flight of stairs, that opens into what is clearly another world. It's a spooky and dangerous place, and they quite sensibly retreat back inside, back to the Wonder Museum and the mundane world, and seal up the hole in the wall that leads to those corridors.

The hole doesn't stay closed, and they're faced with the problem that the monsters on the other side might decide to come through. This is truly terrifying; what exists on the other side can and does commit real horrors. A school bus looks empty but on closer examination has children, apparently still alive, inside the seats. Or not quite in that world anymore, but seemingly trapped inside the seats. find the remains of an outpost from some other world or dimension, of a platoon of soldiers who are now gone, and who left such cheery and encouraging information as "Pray they are hungry." Pray who is hungry? Oh, the being or beings or force that moves through the willows.

Simon and Kara encounter living evidence of what "they" can do to living beings if they are bored, rather than hungry.

They can't leave the hole open and just move away; Uncle Earl will be coming back. And Earl is all too likely to take even the most dire warnings as a reason to go exploring.

How can they seal the hole so that the monsters can't come through? And when they do come through, how do they fight back?

Kingfisher gives us what too many horror movies never give us--a real reason why the people confronted with the horror don't get out of there. Kara and Simon can't leave Earl to deal with this.,even if that would really keep them safe.

They are smart, interesting, complex characters, who rescue each other, and deal with the impossible as best they can. Earl, and Kara's mother, though we see less of them, also have some depth and complexity to them.

And I loved seeing Kara starting to deal with her ex, who dumped her, being clingy and wanting her to still be emotionally dependent on him even though he's dumped her, in the way he deserves.

Really an excelling book. Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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