Thursday, February 16, 2017


Let's take a road trip back to Elder's Keep. Back to the mysterious hills and hideaways of East Tennessee. A place of beauty and heavy history. A haunted place. Haunted even before the Cherokee got there, probably. A place where I grew up. Author Jeffery X Martin grew up there too.

So connected to the dirt beneath his feet, my old friend Jeff started weaving tales about Elder's Keep, or The Keep, in his first short story collection, BLACK FRIDAY. He brought us back to The Keep with HUNTING WITCHES, a novel. Both journeys were chilling, emotional, and as haunted as those green hills. Now he takes us back with his newest story, a novella, that just went live on Valentines Day, which was eerily fitting.

The story opens with a murder. I'll leave it at that. Then begins the investigation, heading by sheriff Graham Strahan and accompanied by Joseph "Josie" Nance, who runs the Elder's Keep Historical Society. The murder occurs in Parham's Field, a place everyone in The Keep knows to stay out of. The details of the murder has Strahan stumped and he turns to Josie for some help. It's Josie that suggest they go talk to the shut in, Dr. Parham, who Strahan just assumed was dead, as his house and property had been in disrepair for as long as Strahan could remember.  They pay a visit to the old doctor together, just to ask a few questions, but nothing is ever simple in The Keep, and the men get a tale nothing could have prepared them for.

PARHAM'S FIELD is such a tightly, well crafted, and tragically beautiful slow burn of a story, that I found myself bouncing along to the book's own unique rhythm and getting lost in a narrative that's part family history, part police investigation. This isn't a mystery, it's, as the doctor says, a confession. Jeff pushes the needle towards the red ever so gently, ever so slightly, building a sense of dread from page one-which you'll carry with you anyway if you've read either of the previous books-and then holds the tension until what you find is undeniable, regardless of where your mind may have been at the beginning. Vague, I know, but I feel it's important to guard the book's secrets. Let Dr. Parham tell them to you, after all, it's his story to tell.

On a couple of personal notes, Jeff's wife finished the book in tears and refused to talk to him for the rest of the night. I think that's important to know going in. "It gets dark," Jeff said. Yes it does. Also, there's a bit about a church in a place called Wheat. That church is said to be haunted and I personally tried to break in there when I was 18 or 19 to see if it were true, had my friends and I speeding away from the area at 100 MPH. A little midnight ghost hunting lead to a wrong turn and we found ourselves on restricted government property. Kids.

I'm giving PARHAM'S FIELD my highest recommendation. You don't need to have read the previous two books to get into it, but they're so good as well, there's no reason to skip them. You can order your copy HERE

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