Written by L Andrew Cooper and published by Blackwyrm Publishing, Burning Middle Ground is a supernatural cum horror cum occult novel. Featuring a religious zealot that will make you think immediately of that Westboro bunch, the book disturbs as much as it scares.
The book’s prologue deals with the murder/suicide of and entire family sans one, Brian. After the events on this tragic and horrible day, Brian doesn’t speak for an entire year. When he is released out into the community and he decides to move into his old house, feelings are mixed in the tiny burg.
The story is about small town USA and it’s a town split by two very different Christian factors. Investigative internet reporter Ronald Glassner goes to the small town of Kenning, Georgia to cover Brian’s return and besides fall for one of the local sheriff’s deputies, he gets caught up in a battle of wills between two churches. One of which is practising a religion older than Christianity and it’s very powerful.
Once Ronald arrives in the small town, strange things begin to happen. Animals run wild, impossible events become common place and people are acting very weird.
All the characters in Cooper’s book are likeable. I felt like I could identify with each and every one and they did a brilliant job of not just representing the denizens of the southern hemisphere of America, but they also had enough quirks and foibles to seem real.
Ronald has the acerbic wit and a sort of radar that helps him to sense when things are not right. He also tends to joke too much when he is stressed. As the third person narrator of the story he is charming, funny, scared and sensible.
The books main “bogey-man” Deacon Jake Warren is an outsider who has made Kenning his home and base of operation. He soon enlists the aid of Reverend Michael Cox a local “fire and brimstone, eye for an eye” man of the cloth. Soon Cox’s wife and the local sheriff are part of his plans for Kenning as well.
In the opposite camp you have Jeanne Harper who runs a church that practices a more peaceful and loving religion she counts, among her flock, Brian and his girl friend Melanie and a small handful of locals who don’t like what Rev Cox preaches. Especially as it was one of his sermons that appeared to have set off the stream of events at the beginning of the book.
With imagery that would not look out of place in a Stephen King or Peter Straub book, Cooper has created a world that, despite its nightmarish aspect, is very cinematic and easy to picture in your mind as you encounter it. I became quite attached to all the main characters and as they struggle to the conclusion of this story, I felt bad when bad things happened to them.
This is obviously the beginning of what promises to be a brilliant series and I cannot wait to see what Mr Cooper has in store for the survivors of Kenning.