Old Country by Matt Query and Harrison Query

Sasha and her husband Harry, have always dreamed of buying a property away from the big city life, and think they’ve found the perfect country home, quickly moving in with their dog Dash. But not long after they move in, their closest neighbour drops by with the welcome wagon and a printed document marked Springtime. What they thought was their dream farm homestead may be their worst nightmare.

This book is written by brothers Matt and Harrison Query. One brother is an environmental lawyer who wrote this original story as a creepypasta called “My Wife And I Bought A Ranch” on the popular Reddit forum r/NoSleep in 2020. The other brother is a successful screenwriter. For the uninitiated, creepypastas are loosely defined as stories shared online that are written as though they are factual, usually first person and are either scary or supernatural. More recent years have seen tropes or conventions of the genre develop, and the while the reddit thread where they are found has always been popular, the readership is declining there in recent years in favour of other forums. Notable entries in the genre include Slender Man and The Russian Sleep experiment. The stories are often designed to be mistaken as real experiences, which is why they’re so great, basically.

The book is written in alternating chapters of Harry and Sasha’s perspectives. This is used to really good effect, because the writers haven’t used it to create unrealistic and contrived misunderstandings between the married couple, but rather to really show two different approaches to life, two different personalities, and also as a way to further the plotting and tension. Harry is an ex-marine and his life has led him to adopt a very aggressive and perhaps traditionally male response. Protect the family, crush threats, dominate enemies. Sasha isn’t the damsel in distress, which I liked, and she’s more open to hearing people out, going with the flow a bit, and understanding by research rather than experimenting by poking the bear, so to speak. I think they’re both really well rounded characters. I also think their dog, Dash, is a great inclusion in the story, because he’s a dog, he humanises our characters, he has interesting reactions to events, and he ups the tension because you don’t want anything to happen to him. There are also some neighbours in the story who add something nice to this book, and I felt like they were very well rounded and realistic. I liked them a lot.

In tone, the book is quite cinematic, which makes sense with the input of a screenwriter and personally, I think it works so well in books of this genre. I loved the eerie atmosphere of this book and the huge countryside, the little house, and the changing seasons. I could really see the faces and places the book describes, and that’s so important in books of this genre. Without giving anything away, because this book is more fun if you don’t really know what’s coming, just like the protagonists don’t, the imagery and ideas in this book are very creepy and I liked that they were not anything I imagined, but also made a strange kind of uncomfortable sense. That’s all I’ll reveal.

It seems to be a real trend lately in the publishing business to have two writers on a novel. I’ve seen quite a few romance and thrillers with two authors. Sometimes they write alternating chapters or each take a character and write from their perspective, though I don’t know if that was the case here. However they did it in this story, it works well and gives a cohesive whole. As a publishing gimmick, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I wonder if it’s useful to tap into a broader market by hitting different brand audiences, for example, the book written by James Patterson and Dolly Parton, who are both established brands in their own right.

It’s interesting to see creepypastas get picked up for book and movie deals. This one has been optioned for a film, and the story would work really well for that medium. The book as a whole is very unsettling and a great spooky read, I do recommend it for your spooky season TBR. It makes you wonder what you would do in the same situation and the way it builds up and withholds secrets sneaks the ideas past your sense of disbelief really well.

Read It If: you’ve ever wanted to escape the city for a simpler life…. It’s a very entertaining and creepy read, perfect for this time of year or for lovers of the horror genre.

Thank you to the publisher for the copy of this book for review.

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