Kevin Lucia delivers a compelling and original supernatural tale with his novella, The Night Road. Lucia uses supernatural elements to explore the dark side of reality—death, dying, loss, dysfunctional families, and trauma.
It all starts with a dream. The main character, Grace, is out for a run and is drawn down a road she doesn’t recognize. She feels compelled to go forward and see what’s down that road but also has a feeling of dread at the same time.
She wakes up and we learn that her sister, Lilly, is in the hospital dying. From here, the reader is thrown into the middle of a mystery and Lucia automatically establishes a sense of dread.
Grace feels guilty. She feels responsible for her sister’s situation. As Lilly lies comatose in the hospital, she begins to have odd experiences. These bizarre experiences coincide with her wearing a pendant that her sister bought from a local thrift store. The pendant sticks out in Grace’s mind since Lilly bought it shortly before her incident and seemed fixated on it.
Lucia effectively creates suspense. He doesn’t give full details as to what happened at first. We’re left to wonder what happened to Lilly, what the deal is with the pendant, and what significance Grace’s dream has—for a little bit. He also introduces two people who Grace is angry with—a man referred to only as “him,” and an aunt.
The story progresses at an even pace—not too quick but not too drawn out. The story’s progression has a natural feel to it as Lucia draws the reader deeper into Grace’s mind. Like people who have had toxic people and traumatic events associated with them, Grace shuts “him” out and refuses to think about what he did.
Lucia’s writing is simple and effective. The story unravels in a way that feels natural; he doesn’t weigh down the prose with unnecessary details or draw the story out in a way that’s boring or frustrating. He gives enough details to create suspense.
We also learn that Grace is obsessed with running to the point that she became a local celebrity on the high school track team. However, it becomes clear that her trophies and accolades mean nothing to her which creates more suspense. When not at her sister’s bedside, Grace goes out running which we find out is a metaphor and a coping mechanism for her. Grace has her supernatural experiences during her runs as well as in her dreams where she’s on that mysterious road. The night road is a tempting path that leads us away from a painful reality.
Lucia also includes many elements of classic horror: an odd piece of second-hand jewelry bought from a thrift store that seems to have some otherworldly power, a stranger who seems to appear out of nowhere, an old cemetery with an interesting past, and a murder of crows.
Lucia masterfully combines these elements to create scenes that will stay with the reader long after closing the book. He uses just the right amount of sensory detail without being too wordy. Each dream Grace has, along with the strange experiences she has in waking reality during her runs, has a genuinely creepy feel.
Lucia also creates a vivid sensory experience. At first, I wasn’t sure if Grace was disoriented or dreaming most of the time, or supposed to be having a supernatural experience. This wasn’t confusing but created a disturbing, uneasy feeling as the lines between dream and reality are blurred. It gives the reader a sense of what Grace’s feelings and state of mind are supposed to be—traumatized and under psychological stress and unable to tell between fantasy and reality.
Lucia effectively portrays these dreamlike states like those dreams perhaps many of us have had of running and not progressing in the direction we’re trying to travel in or screaming with no sound coming out. Lucia strikes the right chords by tapping into those experiences. He also effectively taps into real-world issues such as dealing with toxic relatives, dying family members, and trauma by blocking things out, pushing things away, and adopting coping mechanisms. These elements are what make The Night Road an effective horror story. Lucia weaves these real-world elements seamlessly into Irish mythology and supernatural events.
All of the elements of the story come together for an unpredictable conclusion. While the ending is a shock, it doesn’t feel that it was pulled out of nowhere.
What someone might not like about this book would be that it doesn’t go much into depth with details about the main character, her family, and the mysterious “him.” We do get to know who he is and what he’s done. However, it’s not explicitly described and he is never given a name. However, I think the fact that Lucia didn’t give him a name and go into explicit detail gives the story a more natural feel as if we are really in Grace’s head but she’s trying to block all of these horrible memories out. So, this story is not for a reader who enjoys a lot of backstory.
If you enjoy supernatural horror, and especially if you love mythology and folklore, I recommend Kevin Lucia’s The Night Road. The book was released on April 1, 2022, and is currently available from Cemetery Dance Publications.
Author Kevin Lucia has previously published a short story collection, Things Slip Through (November 2013), Devourer of Souls (June 2014), Through A Mirror, Darkly (June 2015), The Things You Need (September 2018), and his novella Mystery Road from Cemetery Dance Publications (March 2020). He also published a Halloween collection, October Nights, which was released from Crystal Lake in October 2021. He is currently the ebook/trade paperback editor at Cemetery Dance Publications. He’s published short fiction in many anthologies including with Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Bentley Little, Peter Straun, and Robert Cameron.