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Review: Violet by Scott Thomas


Scott Thomas

For many children, the summer of 1988 was filled with sunshine and laughter. But for ten-year-old Kris Barlow, it was her chance to say goodbye to her dying mother. Three decades later, loss returns—her husband killed in a car …more

My Rating

Scott Thomas returns to Kansas’ rural countryside in Violet, a psychologically thrilling piece of Midwest Gothic. Revolving around Kris Barlow, a recently widowed mother, this novel is similar to his first book Kill Creek, in that it too revolves around a single edifice; this time, a cabin in a bucolic setting on the edge of Lost Lake. Kris retreats there with her daughter Sadie as a means for both of them to overcome the unexpected death of her husband.

But this cabin is not some charming family inheritance, it is also the place where Kris watched her mother die of cancer 30 years prior, and there is little solace to be found as Sadie starts spending more and more time in a ‘secret playroom.’ The young girl’s presence in town also seems to disturb the locals, upsetting hidden tragedies that creepily reveal themselves as Sadie becomes more and more distant.

There isn’t exactly anything original about Violet. Thomas’ scary tropes are well worn, but this slowly gathering storm centers around the relationship of mother and daughter, both handling grief in their own way. With a deft use of flashbacks, he unveils the psyche of Kris, and turns everyday detail into skin crawling fright. You’ll never hear The Beatles “Blackbird” the same way again!

The deeper you get into Violet the more suffocating the eerie elements become. It takes a while, with Thomas’ love of lush description that can sometimes bog down the flow, but his slow pace wins the day. Mostly, this is due to the painting the background as a bit mundane, making his revelations of terror suddenly more pronounced. Childhood games become centers of paranoid fear, and the always present, looming Lost Lake beckons, ominous and lurking with unknowns, draws the reader to its depths.

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