Black Spring seems like a normal American town, yet the residents bear a secret. Their town is cursed, haunted by the Black Rock Witch – a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth have been sewn shut. Should the stitches ever be removed, the story goes, the whole town will die…
The residents of Black Spring have become, if not comfortable with the Witch, at least accepting of her presence. Which is handy, as she enters homes at will, often standing for hours at a time, doing nothing. They aren’t able to leave Black Spring for any length of time – those born there have to stay until they die, and anyone who moves there can never leave. There are dire consequences for those who try to get away.
In order to keep the Witch a secret – there have been bad experiences following the intrusion of outside agencies in the past – the town elders employ high-tech surveillance equipment to monitor both the Witch’s whereabouts as well as the residents in an attempt to keep the situation under control.
Frustrated by the restrictions and unwilling to accept their fate, the teenagers of Black Spring begin to conduct experiments – pushing at the boundaries imposed on them, and unwittingly causing Black Spring to descend into a nightmare…
What I loved about Hex was the way that you are slowly drawn in. Yes, there’s the Witch, but the residents of Black Spring are accepting of their fate, even if her presence can be a little unnerving. They make light of the situation, knowing that as long as they leave her alone, they’ll be OK. By the time things take a turn for the worse and the tale becomes gradually darker, you’re hooked, and you have to see it through to its conclusion.
Encompassing a whole town as it does, there are a lot of characters presented here, and I did find it a little confusing at the outset to know who’s who, although you soon learn who the key players are. And the teens who begin to experiment were really interesting. Understandably reluctant to accept their fate, they approach their task scientifically rather than just being pesky troublemakers. Despite their good intentions, however, events spiral out of their control.
As events escalate, Olde Heuvelt perfectly captures the vengeful nature of a town that is slowly descending into madness, and their sheep-like mentality as they look for someone to punish. I found it to be somewhat reminiscent of Ballard’s High Rise in the way that the madness takes hold of the community, albeit with a different catalyst.
Hex is a wonderfully creepy novel that I didn’t find scary as such, but it’s one of those novels that makes you a little jumpy, making you look over your shoulder to make sure that you are alone. Hex will appeal to fans of (early) Stephen King, and anyone who likes a creepy, insidious horror story.
Many thanks to Louise Swannell at Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy for review.