by Shannon Felton
There have been a lot of great newcomers in the last two years, and Shannon Felton is no exception. Her debut – a gripping novella called The Prisoners of Stewartville – is a fast-paced, terribly gritty story that blends crime, drama and horror with ease.
Like The Blinds (Adam Sternbergh), this novel left me in love with the possibilities of the town (which is, essentially, the most important character of the story). Stewartville could be the tree that extends various branches of stories for years to come. That being said, the actual human characters are also fun to follow, despite the fact that many are quite one-dimensional and short-lived. The lead – who tells the story – comes from a broken home (like so many others in Stewartville), one held loosely together by his older brother. Yes, his nana is there, too, but she’s feeble and basically immobile. As such, our lead has free roam of the town. This gives him the ability to disappear from home for hours or days at a time without any real resistance from anyone. You know what that means, don’t you? Trouble. And trouble he does find.
The thing is, people around Stewartville are acting even worse than before, following the discovery of a tunnel in a school friend’s basement early on in the novella. Seemingly at random, townsfolk are killing each other and themselves without warning. One friend suddenly pulls a firearm at a gas station. Another bludgeons his mother to death. This sort of thing continues throughout the book, and almost in passing. By this, I mean little time is spent describing them or lingering on their actions/consequences. Our lead is pretty desensitized, it seems, which is understandable on some levels; however, I would have liked to see some more reaction to the mass hysteria seeming to spread throughout town. Even though our lead does decide to seek out the evil of the town and destroy it, there were still various scenes that felt underdeveloped and skimmed over.
Nevertheless, The Prisoners of Stewartville kept me glued to the page. I tore through this one as quickly as I do anything these days, which is a surefire tell that I enjoyed the ride. Not only did Shelton’s easy writing style make it, well, easy to lose yourself in the story, the story itself is gripping and gritty. I most definitely loved this little book, and recommend it to all. Anything else Felton cooks up better be sent my way – I’m hungry for more.
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Review by Aiden Merchant
I received a copy of this book from Silver Shamrock Publishing for review consideration.