In The Conveyance Brian W. Matthews has written a well-grounded horror novel ripe for summer reading thrills. Although he is weaving together a number of familiar horror tropes—a strangely menacing small town, evil dolls, mind control, an alien invasion, he manages to make them fresh, ominous and, even more importantly, believable.
The events are narrated by Dr. Brad Jordan a psychologist and therapist who works with children. His wife Toni is a teacher, and although the couple has had some problems in the past, they seem to have been able to put them behind, and they are trying, so far unsuccessfully, to have a child. Their best friends are a police detective, Frank Swinicki and his wife Kerry. They not only have a family, Kerry, it turns out, is pregnant again and Frank is not very happy about it.
Together, Brad and Frank are both voices of normality and an effective force formidable enough to deal plausibly with the plot’s strange and terrifying events. Moreover their personal relationships and problems drape these extraordinary occurrences with a layer of realism. The couples, with their weekly euchre game and arguments about family matters, erect that foundation of verisimilitude which is essential to horror fiction.
Matthews builds slowly to the revelations of the plot. He creates convincing characters acting rationally before requiring the reader to accept the irrational. Brad has a therapy session with a new patient as the book begins. There is an automobile accident, and Brad is banged up. Toni has an emotional breakdown when she learns she is not pregnant. Frank and Kerry argue about finances and a new baby. They have the kind of lives that pass for normal. The reader is able to buy into the characters and their ordinary problems.
Then strange things begin to happen. Brad and Toni visit a peaceful little town for a day out in the splendor of the Michigan autumn. Emersville is the kind of typical country village set up to attract tourists and their dollars. There are little boutique shops. There is an upscale coffee place with the punning name, “Black and Brewed.” The town is so artfully picturesque, Brad comments: “The old-time quaint vibe was so strong I found myself searching for a wooden Indian standing in front of a five-and-dime.”
Instead of a wooden Indian, what he finds is a strange home-made Raggedy Anne doll in a store called Lost Desires. He buys it for use with his therapy patients, and so opens a Pandora’s box that takes him and the reader on one very clever thrill ride.