When the pandemic first began, I had a little more time to read than I’d had for a while — for about the previous eight months.

I was no longer going out for much. If I had a story to cover, I’d go cover it. If a meeting was still taking place and allowing in-person attendance from members of the public, I’d head out. But there was no going to the gym or out to eat or on visits with friends or family. For the first time in my life, I ordered groceries for pickup. We were encouraged to work from home as much as possible. In the event I needed a change of scenery, I’d go to the office — at night when there was nobody there who I could pick up COVID-19 from — or transmit it to, in the event I had contracted the virus without knowing.

I’ve always enjoyed reading in a wide variety of genres, so I decided to take it back up.

Instead of doing what a sensible person would do and reading one of the many books I already have on my shelf, I bought a new one.

“The Twisted Ones” by T. Kingfisher (the pen name of Ursula Vernon) is a horror novel published in October of 2019.

Perhaps not ideal pandemic reading. During a time of stress, a horror novel might not be the first thing most people think to pick up. Probably something a little fluffier would have been a more intuitive choice.

But you know, this one just kind of hit the spot for me.

“The Twisted Ones” deals with a young woman nicknamed Mouse who has been asked to clean out her estranged, abusive grandmother’s house after her grandmother’s death. In the house, which is crammed with hoarded junk, she finds something interesting — and more than a little eerie — in the form of her step-grandfather’s diary. The diary, which makes reference to the titular “twisted ones,” doesn’t make a lot of sense until our narrator finds some extremely disturbing things in the woods surrounding her late grandmother’s rural North Carolina home — something distinctly supernatural.

This one dragged me in from the first page.

I found the narrator engaging and believable — which is good, because the story is told in third person. The author tempers the spookier and more depressing aspects of the book with a good dose of humor — something I also found relatable.

“The Twisted Ones,” in addition to keeping the reader engaged with action and good storytelling, also explores the main character’s familial relationships to a certain degree. It deals with her less-than-positive relationship with her grandmother, who was an incredibly toxic, negative figure and who, it becomes clear, mistreated her husband — Mouse’s step-grandfather.

As the things in the woods close ranks around her, Mouse has to use his diaries to find out how she — and her beloved dog who came with her on this excursion — can make it out alive and unharmed.

This isn’t a horror novel for people who like slasher horror. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre it’s not. It has a marked supernatural element and I would class it as more of a spine tingler than anything.

If you enjoy that, you’ll enjoy this.

LYDIA KAUTZ is the Managing Editor of the Junction City Union.

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