Book Review: Niceville by Carsten Stroud

Carsten Stroud
Alfred A. Knopf, June 2012
ISBN 978-0-307-70095-7
Also available in trade paperback

Welcome to the southern town of Niceville. Explore scenic downtown. Gaze upon the Tulip River. Get to know the town folk. Beware, however, of the ever looming presence of Tallulah’s Wall and its enigmatic, and some say cursed, Crater Sink. And those town folk? Well…don’t be surprised if some just…disappear. In strange fashion. Maybe never to return and if they do…well, that could prove to be something worse. Oh, and try to avoid mirrors.

When a little boy disappears in a town infamous for it’s anomalous amounts of people who go missing, one of those investigating is ex military Nick Kavanaugh. Soon, the boy returns…but in a very strange location. A year later, Nick finds himself involved in the investigation of a bank robbery in a nearby town, the murder of cops, and another disappearance, this time of an elderly lady and her gardener. Meanwhile his wife, Kate, is discovering clues to the rash of disappearances over the decades and the connections to the city’s four founding families. Meanwhile, the bank robbers have discovered something interesting in their cache of loot for which others will kill to retrieve.

This is a strange tale with a plethora of characters so interconnected it’d take a chart to see the big picture. Lots of details and imagery. Stroud almost lost me with the multiple directions the story took. However, when the supernatural and eeriness crept in, I knew I couldn’t stop reading. When he started piecing together the seemingly irrelevancies, I knew I wouldn’t stop until I knew how this would end. Niceville is an oxymoron and one that you should not give up on. Let it sneak into your system like it did mine and tease you. I wasn’t disappointed and I don’t think you will be, either.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, April 2013.
Author of Night Shadows, Beta and Alpha.