The Haunting of Velkwood

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Release Date: 
March 5, 2024
Saga Press
Reviewed by: 

“a haunting, chilling, and thought-provoking work by this award-winning author.”

Twenty years ago, three young women left their homes to return to college. Behind them, their neighborhood disappeared.

The Velkwood Vicinity, as it was forever afterward called, became a paranormal phenomenon, the object of many parapsychological studies, research, discourses, and simply weird speculation.

Only the houses remained, empty and abandoned, their occupants nowhere to be found. No one could enter the neighborhood. Something—some force—wouldn’t let them; only Brett, Grace, and Talitha Velkwood—for whom the street is named—can re-enter Velkwood, and none of them want to go back. At least, Grace and Brett don’t. Talitha might, because she feels guilty for leaving her little sister Sophie behind.

Now Talitha may have a chance to find Sophie again. A young man named Jack has a grant to study Velkwood, and he’s asked Talitha to go into the neighborhood and let him record her observations. There are others working on the project with him, taking blood samples, heart monitoring, and other invasive, intrusive observations, but Talitha tries to ignore them. Her goal is to find Sophie and bring her out of the Vicinity.

Talitha’s return to Velkwood is nothing as she expects. The street is as it was the day she left, the people the same as then, also. They can’t see her, however. Sophie is there but she can’t see Talitha, either. Only Enid, who didn’t leave with them, Enid who was always the odd girl out, the one who died and somehow came back to life, recognizes Talitha and speaks to her before she’s ejected from the Vicinity.

Talitha thinks she’s been gone an hour; instead, it’s been three months.

Having seen Sophie, she’s determined to go back into the neighborhood and retrieve her. This time, she’s successful, but there are consequences she didn’t expect. Something’s wrong. Sophie begins to fade when they leave the street, her vital signs diminishing. Jack says she’ll soon die if she doesn’t go back in, but Talitha can’t let her go.

Then Brett shows up. Estranged for years, Brett is Talitha’s best friend, her first and only love, torn apart of their parents’ disapproval. But she’s here now for Talitha, supporting her as both women return to Velkwood Street to face the crime they committed there, the act that began Velkwood’s plunge toward oblivion.

As the ghosts of Velkwood Street gradually come to sense, then see Sophia and Brett, they’re told what must be done to “repair” the damage done by that long ago violence, but who, exactly, must be the one doing the repairing? That’s the question every inhabitant, as well as Talitha, Brett, and Grace, must face, and how much they do it.

This novel is definite a gothic horror story, but it’s also a tale of choices and how those choices affect not only the one making them but cause a ripple effect touching others. It’s also a story of responsibility, and what happens when a community is aware of something terrible happening and decides to ignore rather than act to prevent it. Brett and Talitha are not the only ones affected by what happened before they left Velkwood that fatal last time, but also everyone in the community who recognized a domestic tragedy in the making and stood by and did nothing.

It is also the story of two young women tentatively beginning a relationship still in a forbidden status for that day and age, and their struggle to rise above the prejudice of the time, how one life seemed touched with success while the other had more than its share of failure and shame.

Everyone in Velkwood is a ghost, and Talitha may become one of them if she can’t undo what she and Brett have done—they are accused of “making it happen”—but Talitha has other ghosts of her own, in her mind, that affect her much more than the “real” ones confronting her on Velkwood’s sidewalks. She recognizes those, and forcing the others to face their failure takes courage from her as well as from her neighbors, for only then does the accepted peace come—and the desired “fix” happens—if not in the way Talitha wants or expects.

The Haunting of Velkwood is a haunting, chilling, and thought-provoking work by this award-winning author.