Casualties Synopsis: Fresh from Afghanistan, crippled by both a crumbling marriage and growing paranoia, can a soldier save his family from the ancient evil in his own house?
Sergeant First Class Chris Williams is back home, and he and his family are move to Fort Huachuca, a small Army post deep in the southeastern corner of Arizona.
From the time they move in, Chris and his wife Molly are struck by the preponderance of ghost stories surrounding their new home. Chris wonders why nightmares still plague him—then, he realizes the reason. He and his family are not alone in their house. An evil older than Fort Huachuca, older than time itself, lives there. Now, enough sacrifices have been made to its blood hunger that it can finally give birth to a powerful, deadly offspring intent on dominating our world.
Chris, Molly, and their two children become pawns of the evil spirit inhabiting their new neighborhood. Already casualties of life, crippled by both a crumbling marriage and growing paranoia, can Chris and Molly save their family from the evil already living under their own roof? – Goodreads Synopsis
Casualties felt strongly like how Poltergeist might have worked with a riskier rating and an Army base setting. The main difference being, though, that the majority of things that happened were to the characters themselves. There are no sliding chairs or maggot-steak. Instead its whispered coercion, seeds of distrust, and phantoms that haunt you in the night. It moves quickly (the book suffers a bit for the pace) and has some fairly gruesome imagery. Reading it, you find a family ripped apart before you’ve even got a sense of them as a whole.
However, Dev Jarrett’s book is not just about the paranormal horror of the haunted neighborhood. It’s also about the real horror of PTSD and how it can affect the afflicted and their family. The main character, Chris Williams, has PTSD and makes a few great observations during the course of the story. The two that struck me the most where:
“Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, Hollingwood had said, but here was the truth of the matter, sitting at the reception desk. Her wide eyes and appraising smile as she talked with Chris did more to perpetuate the stigma of seeking emotional help than generations of machismo.”
“The land of PTSD was a sad, exhausting place to live, seeing the potential for danger everywhere, and sometimes dialing it back was too difficult to manage.”
I love reading horror and the safe little scared ‘charge’ that a great writer can give you. PTSD ,though, can send your terror and adrenaline levels through the roof in a way that no horror ‘master’ will ever be able to manage. It’s also difficult to talk about, to give in and seek help for, and yes, it makes life hell. It really does. That connection, tenuous though it was, was one of the things about the story that hooked me.
Overall, Casualties is a good haunted house/neighborhood story, that either needs to be a bit longer, or a bit shorter. The diving into the deep end never allowed a proper feel of tension to truly develop. It’s a hazard of that particular way of beginning a story – very hit or miss. However, the various descriptions, research, etc, made it feel like a short story that dragged on a bit at times. The story was engaging, however, and the main character’s internal struggles were realistic. You can’t help but root for the family to make it through this particular patch of crazy.
Casualties is available on Amazon, and definitely worth checking out. This is especially true if you, like me, find comfort in reading books about people with PTSD. It gives an added touch of realistic horror even as it reminds you that you aren’t alone.
About the book