Thursday 15 February 2024

Arlya - Jack Lowe-Carbell

ISBN 9781779410962
eISBN 9781779410986

A co-worker who I have traded book recommendations with on a number of occasions mentioned in a comment on LinkedIN picking up this volume. It is written by the son of another co-worker so I thought I would give it a try. I did not read the description before beginning the story the book. I had no idea what to expect. At the beginning it had the feel of a Gordon Korman or Andrew Clements middle grade book. But it soon took a dark turn and was more like a Stephen King or the Timothy Blake series from Jack Heath. It started a little slow but soon I could hardly put it down. 

The description of the novel is:

“Arlya, a small town in Southern Ontario, is rocked by a gruesome crime. Four friends must work together with Detective Dylan Grey to find a pattern, a bike, a clue, and a sister before it is repeated.

James and his three best friends, Owen, Tommy, and Mike, have just finished school for the summer. The plan is the same as every other year: they are going to build the biggest fort yet, deep in the Dhoon Woods. After stumbling across a tiny, seemingly unimportant wooden hut, a series of crimes take place and their plans change.

Arlya falls into itself. Doors are locked, curtains drawn, bikes are put away, strangers invade, and kids are off the street. In the first week of summer vacation, a dark and disturbing family history is uncovered; friends turn on each other; a storm rolls through town; and a monster is hiding just out of sight, smiling its toothy grin and crawling through the corn.”

The four friends have always been close, but when tragedy strikes, will it draw them closer together or tear them apart. It was the beginning of summer break and they had big plans. But when one’s sister is found missing and they realize another’s has been gone three days terror hits the families and the community. In a small town there few secrets; but some are coming out because of the stress and tension of the missing girls. Two kids that had previously been assaulted by a cousin, a mother who lives in the bottle, and even passes out and spends the night in the ditch. An incident with one of the girls and a school teacher on the last day of the year. 

For a while it felt like it was going to become a police procedural along the lines of Alex Smith or J.D. Kirk. But it never quite got there. The children are well written. Their friendships and antics at the beginning. There is a lot of swearing at the beginning of the book, but it sort of just stops. The ploy is well laid out, and has several sub-plots much like some of Tom Clancy’s works. There are a few standout suspects as the story progresses. And the boys turn to internet forms for assistance once things become even bleaker. It ends up feeling like a very mature coming of age story with some horror elements. It will be interesting to see if Jack returns to any of these characters in future works.

In the about the author section we are informed:

“Jack Lowe-Carbell is a 26-year-old writer living in Vancouver, BC. “Arlya” is his first novel, and it is based in his hometown Ayr, ON. Thanks to his dad, who read him horror stories when he was far too young, Jack has always loved the genre. His next novel is a tale of horror based in Garibaldi Provincial Park.”

I lived in the woods just outside Ayr for a year. Thinking back on the story I can easily see the community described and the environment around it. This familiarity provides an even deeper chill thinking back on the story. As a first novel it is an impressive offering. At the time of this review Jack has three stories published that can be found online: Dear/Hey Ellie, Baking for the First Time, and The Last Night. He also has some music under the name Lowe-Fi available on Apple Music and Sound Cloud.

This story is a good first novel, and he mentions another in the works. It was creepy enough, but pushed my limits, especially as a father of daughters. I have no qualms recommending this for mature audiences, and those who love a dark creepy story. It is part coming of age and part horror. I look forward to his next offering a tale of horror based in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Over the last several years I have averaged about a book a day. And I can state for a first effort this one was very well done. And I would have no issue picking up another novel from Jack's pen. 

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