Twin Lakes : Autumn Fires by Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason
Known familiarly as the Sisters of Slaughter in the horror space, this lively duo brings experience in deep, dark horror, and they’ve written together since they were children. Although they have a long history of success and are well-known and approachable, this was my first experience reading their work. First impressions matter, which was why a typo of “bac / back” in paragraph one, page one was unfortunate. It was also a sign of more to come.
I read and write without mercy, so I know I’m being difficult. Thing is… I can get over a typo here or there. When grammar and punctuation issues exist on a mass scale, they eventually stop flirting and start distracting me, and I wish that had not been the case here.
One way I can overlook clumsy phrasing or missing (or displaced) commas is enjoying other areas where a work shines—and I’ll get to that in a moment. First, particularly in the hands of two well-regarded, intelligent female authors, I was a bit surprised by a casual “darn, got raped!” sequence. This violation was not gratuitous, but its presentation made the impact somewhat hollow.
One more quick whimper from me and then we’ll play nice. The dialogue was constant and this I enjoy in almost any book, and did here. However, dialogue needs to read like dialogue, and reading some of the passages aloud would expose “breathe!” portions once in a while… and when the speaker is obvious and the intention/tone is clear, I cringe a little when each utterance is followed by some minor variation on [dialogue] “she said smiling” or [dialogue] “he interjected with tears in his eyes” and etc.
Great; now that I’ve torn the guts out of this thing and feel like a jerk, here’s why this scores fairly well and was a book I finished when I should have been doing other things… and also, why I’d read their work again.
There is a lot here to like once you get beyond the “really needs another editing and revision pass” sensation (the authors pump-out a large volume of writing, and my hat’s off to them, but quality often suffers when quantity rises). What doesn’t suffer here is the boundless creativity and great world-building, interesting and numerous characters, and the solid handle on a plot that could have spun out of control completely.
Descriptions are good, the scares are good at times, and the character backstories are varied. The authors are also not squeamish when it comes to blood, horror, gore, and more—but again, they aren’t disgustingly gratuitous or exploitational, which is a plus on the far side of horror.
A strong cast of characters populates the novel, and it is the action and interaction of these people that make the pages turn. Also fun, and a very mild spoiler here from early on, not everyone or everything is what they first appear. In short, there are elders and ancients and werewolves and ghosts—and while these are not extremely plot-altering shifts for the most part, this adds variety and a sense of twists and surprises throughout. The raw creativity poured into the book helps, and needs to help, offset the repetitive “can I buy a comma?” annoyance readers might overlook, but a writer is bound to see, and on the whole, the creativity wins.
In summary, as is often the case with rapid-fire horror fiction, this was a fun, interesting concept that was executed with love, blood, and professionalism. With a larger budget or desire for editing and revision rounds to polish the rougher surfaces, this would easily stand as a top-shelf, excellent read that stands the test of time.
Their talent is undeniable, so here’s to hoping the Sisters of Slaughter keeping their fast-paced action and inventive mindset, slowed just enough in post-production to ensure that great ideas don’t get mired in minor complaints from grumpy readers like this one.