British author Brooke Vaughn’s (a pseudonym for Sara Brunsdon) debut novel ‘The Barn’ was first published by Ghostwriter Publications in March of 2010.
A Greyhound bus travelling from Boston to Bangor in Maine, is diverted due to an accident involving an oil tanker and a car. The driver, Cedric, takes the bus and his passengers on a diverted route along a number of small country roads to avoid the resulting pile-up; that is until his route becomes blocked by some major flooding from the current torrential downpour. Realising that there is no way that the bus could continue along the small rural lane, or indeed navigate back through the tight country roadway, Cedric decides that he has no choice but to take the bus across a nearby dirt track that leads to an isolated farm – Blue Raven Farm. There Cedric and his passengers can hole-up for the night until the torrential rain subsides, when the roadway should with any hope become passable once again.
Upon arriving at the farm, the troupe is greeted by the owners, Jim and Ella Wilkins, who kindly take in Cedric and his ten stranded passengers. However, before long the power goes in the farm, including the phone lines and with it any hope of reaching the outside world that night. The group try to settle down in the dark, making the best of a bad situation, when one by one they start to witness haunting visions resembling aspects of their own personal worst fears. Soon enough a passenger falls victim to one such terrifying vision, slicing the skin clean off her face with a broken shard of a mirror in a fit of hysterical madness. Her agonising death is just the first of many to terrorise the defenceless group.
A dark evil is lurking in a nearby Barn, saturating everything within the farm with its corrupt and malevolent presence. An evil born from thousands of years of slaughter unleashed upon that very spot. An evil that feeds upon people’s fears; drawing them to acts of violence and murder. An evil that now has eleven new victims to play with...and within the group is one whose soul is already willing to succumb to such evil. One by one they will fall to the evil from within the barn…
Brooke Vaughn begins this chilling supernatural tale by setting down the background stories to a number of the key characters within the plot; starting off the ground work towards a character-driven storyline that relies heavily on intricately developed characterisation. Vaughn doesn’t fall short on this aspect with the majority of her principal characters; each one having been given their own back-story to help drive forward their individual storylines. However, not all of the key characters are given such treatment, including with one particular key player in the whole tale, which results in a weaker and less impactful shock-twist in the storyline than could have otherwise been delivered.
The violence is laid on with heavy shovelfuls throughout the length of the novel. The gruesome depictions of the attacks and bloodshed, are given a truly pulpy 'over-the-top' quality – delighting in the splatter-happy visions with almost a sadistic glee. Similarly, the one sex scene that is snugly slotted into the plot is depicted in such an overtly-graphic way, that it wouldn’t be out of place in the seedy writings of a mediocre porn magazine. Not that this in any way detracts from the novel, its colourful inclusion merely accentuates the utterly pulpy nature of the novel.
Although the novel maintains a mile-a-minute pace with the almost constant threat of this omnipresent evil hanging over the group, the general flow of the tale does seem to feel slightly staggered. Furthermore, the large grouping of potential victims at ‘disposal’, on one hand allows for a hefty amount of bloodspill, but at the same time results in an overall less engaging feel for the reader.
The real ‘meat’ of the tale comes in the last third of the novel, whereby Vaughn unleashes her entire arsenal of haunting imagery upon the reader. The finale is surprisingly quite a drawn out affair for a novel of such length, however, the showdown is pure edge-of-the-seat material until the eventual gore-heavy conclusion. This last segment is what really makes ‘The Barn’ such a good read; pushing the novel up from that of quite a standard modern-day supernatural horror story, into the realms of a near-masterclass in unashamed pulp horror nastiness.
For a debt novel, ‘The Barn’ has set down an intriguing introduction for this new talent on the horror scene. All eyes will be on this young new author’s follow-up novel, which will hopefully push forwards from the solid platform set down by this thrill-tastic soiree into pulp horror debauchery.
The novel runs for a total of 173 pages.
© DLS Reviews