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Monday, March 13, 2023

What I'm Reading: The Merry Dredgers

I have a review in the March 15th issue of Booklist, the latest title by Jeremy Shipp. I really enjoyed their book Bedfellow and was excited to dive into this one. It did not disappoint. You can read my draft review below with the usual additional information. Also, Meerkat is one of my trusted Horror small presses, so order with confidence. 

The Merry Dredgers
By Jeremy Shipp
Apr. 2023. 200p. Meerkat, paper, $16.95 (9781946154460)
First published March 15, 2023 (Booklist).

Seraphina, a struggling actress whose main gig is portraying a princess at birthday parties, comes home exhausted to find a series of postcards from her  sister, Eff, who has joined a cult– The Merry Dredgers. Within days of making contact, Phina learns that Eff was in an accident and now lies in a coma. In order to find Eff’s attacker, Phina decides to infiltrate the cult. Setting the unease high from page one, Shipp draws readers in immediately with Phina’s conversational narration, quickly introducing the compelling mystery. However, it is with the introduction of the cult’s homebase, an abandoned amusement park, and the creepy details of the place and its history, where readers will eagerly settle in for the duration and be rewarded with a story that evolves from the thriller is appears to be, emerging as a thought provoking tale about love, vulnerability, and the stories we tell about ourselves. A suspenseful and creepy read for fans of Horror featuring cults such as Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel or amusement parks like Hide by Kiersten White.

Further Appeal: The best thing about this book is that the set up is great, hooks you, but then....it becomes something else which is equally as good and compelling, and better. Not every author could pull that off, but they do. 

It is a quick read, suspenseful and well paced. Phina's narrative voice is engaging and draws you in right away as well. She is talking to the reader as she works out her dilemma and her life.

But the bests part is the abandoned, horror themed, amusement park which is the home of the cult. The sense of place is amazing. I don't want to give anything away, but the mirror room scenes are awesome and the elevator....just read it.
But despite the awesome amusement park, this is really a story about about love, family, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. There is a sweet love story here between Phina and a young woman in the cult; despite the short page count and the compelling pace, this relationship unfolds realistically. 

It is also a book about stories and how we share them-- about ourselves especially. This is a book readers can sit back and watch unfold– enjoy it all, experience the dread and creepiness-- and then bonus, be left with something to think about after it is all over.

Three Words That Describe This Book: creepy, cults, conversational narration

Readalikes: You can go in so many directions here. Yes Horror featuring cults and/or amusement parks of which there are many and I start you off in the review above. But, I also thought about All Hallows by Christopher Golden (although I can't explain why). 

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