Hanging Chads
by Evan Clouse

"It was always the first thing that she noticed. The faint scent of iron as the sticky thin molasses gently dribbled down the shaft of the knife and penetrated the space between her clenched thumb and forefinger."

This horror story of many delights begins with a creepy prologue that sets the stage for the next twenty-three chapters. The book examines Maddy Sommers’ early beginning of being a charmer and one who looks angelic. But looks can be deceiving. Growing up in a house of physical and emotional abuse, Maddy bears her scars in many ways and inflicts those scars upon unsuspecting others. While she has the support of her aunts and an uncle, this love is not enough to overcome the rigidity, cruelty, and hatred she experiences at the hands of her fanatically religious parents. What happens when she goes to college, gets married while trying to be someone other than herself, and how she copes with the death of a loved one show the reader a broad spectrum of a personality significantly harmed as a child. Amidst the mayhem, she finds a sisterhood with other women, all while searching for her “prince.”

A mystery, love story, and horror story all in one, Clouse’s novel also encompasses political and religious issues along with the terrors of abuse and killings. Well-written with a sense of humor and sarcasm, it is a delightfully charming book, if a book about murder can be called this. The character developments are well thought out, especially that of Maddy, who goes from being a delightful child to an adult of depression, drug addiction, and sexual proclivities. The examination of grief is nicely done, as is the social construct of abuse and neglect. But the most interesting development is Maddy’s love of pranks, pranks that turn evil in her need to harm others who have done their own harm. The reader will be entranced by her wild personality and engaged throughout the book.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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