Who doesn’t love serial killers and creepy diaries? If you’re looking for a horror to keep your teeth chattering and your gore factor up high, then you’ll want The Town Built on Sorrow by David Oppegaard – and we’ve got the cover!
Welcome to the strange mountain foothills town of Hawthorn, where sixteen-year-old Harper Spurling finds herself increasingly obsessed with the diary of a local 1860s pioneer girl while a serial killer runs unchecked through the area, dumping his victims into the town’s dark river. As Harper’s curiosity leads her closer and closer to the killer, she’ll have to think fast or join the killer’s growing list of victims. Because in Hawthorn, a town built on sorrow, the barrier between life and death is as fragile as an old, forgotten skull.
“I’m very excited about the cover for The Town Built on Sorrow” said Oppegaard. “Not only does it provide a good sense of its main character, the intelligent, inquisitive, strong-willed Harper Spurling, but it also evokes the wild, uncanny foothills town she lives in. And of course there’s the skull, lurking with thousands of years of pent-up malevolence in the corner, biding its murderous time before it finds its way into Harper’s life. The cover for The Town Built on Sorrow says welcome to Hawthorn, where the wilderness has not yet been tamed and not everyone dead rests easily…”
The Town Built on Sorrow releases on September 26 from Flux Books. Need to read a bit RIGHT NOW after seeing that cover? Take a look at the opening scene below – though we warn you that it is not for the faint of heart. And once you read, keep scrolling to enter to win one of three advanced reader’s copies!
What Should Have Stayed Buried
Olav Helle forgot to check beneath his car and felt a telltale thump as he backed out of his driveway. He’d had his driver’s license for only two weeks but he knew a total fuckup when he felt one. He stopped the car immediately and put it in park. He gripped the car’s steering wheel so tightly his knuckles turned white and he considered slamming his face into the steering wheel’s center—WHAM WHAM WHAM—until his face was so bashed in it would be all but unrecognizable, a pulpy mishmash of skin, blood, and bone.
Instead, Olav turned off the ignition and got out, slamming the driver’s side door behind him. He knelt on the gravel driveway and peered beneath his car.
Cooper, the neighbor’s plump calico cat, lay crushed and twitching in the car’s shadow.
The cat turned in the direction of his voice. One of its eyes was puffed out bigger than the other and filled with blood. It was fucked.
“Come here, dude.”
Olav reached under the car, grabbed the cat, and dragged it into the light. He looked around to see if anyone was watching—you could always see those curtains being pulled back, those blinds parted—but didn’t make out any spies. It was a chilly November day in Hawthorn, and his neighborhood was quiet. Olav had driven home from school to eat lunch and nobody else was around, not even the usual gawking old ladies, the ones who always hung around in their front yards in their baggy dresses while they watered shit with a hose. He’d gotten lucky, witness-wise.
The cat twitched and made a sad little mewing sound. Olav grabbed the back of its neck, dug his fingers into its soft fur, and twisted his wrist sharply, snapping the cat’s neck. The cat twitched for a few seconds and then went still as the light in its eyes calcified. Olav stroked the dead cat’s soft fur twice, took a deep breath, and stood up. He knew if his parents found out he’d run over the Rathbones’ cat they’d take his driver’s license away for a month or longer, and he’d already waited forever to start driving in the first place. It wasn’t his fault if Cooper was a sleepy idiot who liked lying beneath cars. This was Darwinism in action.
Okay . . .
He’d hide the evidence as fast as he could and go back to school. The Rathbones would think Cooper had run away, and Olav would avoid getting in trouble. Besides, either way, nothing was bringing this cat back from the dead.
Olav went into his garage, found a shovel, and returned to the crime scene. He scooped up the cat, prayed nobody was watching him, and briskly crossed his backyard and entered the woods behind it. He wove his way through the trees, focusing on the dead cat and doing his best to keep it from sliding off the shovel. The forest was a mishmash of blue spruce, pine, fir, larch, and cedar trees. The air always smelled like sap, and fat pinecones lay strewn on the ground like undetonated grenades. Olav made his way through the trees slowly, listening to the woods. A blue mountain jay flew in front of him and settled on a high branch, giving him the once-over as it turned its arrowhead-shaped crest from side to side. Olav continued on, pushing his way through the trees until he entered the Clearing.
Olav had been going to the Clearing for years. He liked to hang out in it and sit on top of the large boulder at its center. Sometimes he smoked cigarettes if he had any. Sometimes he read comic books. Sometimes he didn’t do anything but lie on his back and look up at the clouds through a hole in the forest canopy and listen to the trees rustling around him. The Clearing was peaceful, and he could be alone and untroubled in it, tucked away from his parents and everyone else in town.
Now the Clearing would be a cat graveyard, too. Olav dumped Cooper on the ground and started digging at the base of the big rock—the boulder would make a nice gravestone, fit for a king—and threw shovelfuls of sandy soil to the side. He worked smoothly, breaking through roots and random clumps of clay. He got into the digging and kept going deeper than a cat grave really needed to be until suddenly the shovel hit something hard. He thought it was a rock at first, but as he dug farther he could see an empty white eye socket peering up at him from the bottom of the hole.
Olav tossed the shovel aside and knelt at the edge of the hole. He dug around the eye socket with his hands, and soon the top half of a human skull was revealed, enough skull that Olav could pull it out of the ground like he was harvesting a potato. He scooped dirt out of the skull’s eye sockets, brushed off the worms and centipedes clinging to its surface, and held it up to the light.
The skull was yellow with age and missing its jawbone. Olav knocked on its cranium and listened to the hollow sound it made. “That’s where your brain used to be,” Olav said. “Right under this bone.” The skull was missing most of its teeth, but the three that remained still looked long and sharp. Olav ran his finger along the biggest tooth and pictured a huge caveman, jacked with muscles and hairy as a bear, the kind of beast-man who dressed in animal skins and drank the blood of his enemies.
Olav placed the skull on top of the boulder and held its empty stare while he wiped his hands on the front of his jeans. A cold late autumn wind blew through the forest as Olav picked his shovel up off the ground and took a deep breath.
“Just wait a minute,” Olav told the skull. “I have to bury something else.”
Need to read more? Fill out the form below to enter to win one of three copies of The Town Built on Sorrow by David Oppegaard. Giveaway copies donated by Flux. Open to the U.S. only. Void where prohibited.