Title: The Midwives
Author: Duncan Ralston
Release date: February 24th, 2020
Duncan Ralston is a name many horror readers are familiar wife, and most have read a few of his releases by now. In 2019, Ralston up the game with promotional pushes for his stellar release ‘Ghostland.’ A follow up to that book, which landed on many “Best Of” lists and has already been announced that a sequel is in the works would be daunting on the best of days. But Ralston dove into it head first and eagerly shared the cover from esteemed artist Francois Vaillancourt.
Once that image hit the horror community the excitement level began to increase.
What I liked: The story follows one Marty Savage, true-crime writer extraordinaire. He had a string of hits, but his best know work was ‘Witch Hunter,’ which was an embellished version of serial killer Barclay. When Barclay escapes and begins killing his way towards Savage, wanting revenge, Savage and his friend Sheila, who was a psychiatrist on the case flee to the remote town of Barrows Bay – where Savage grew up.
Duncan did a fantastic job of diving into the deep end immediately. We get to see that Savage is a bit of a scumbag, preying on easy female targets at book signings and living a bachelor life of debauchery. We get to see his character go through a transformation story arc throughout and it was satisfying to watch that happen. Sheila is a strong female character, many times the reality grounder to Marty’s sarcastic laissez-faire attitude.
The midwives of Barrows Bay made for a great group to create the necessary “good versus evil” set up that a folk thriller like this needed and I loved the back story that Ralston sprinkled throughout.
The ending was done really well and there were several things left a bit open for the possibility of a sequel. I would love to read more, especially seeing how we never really get any conclusion with a discovery on the beach or with the main detective.
Lastly, Barrows Bay itself worked as a very engaging character. While technically the setting, a place such as this has its own pulse, its own rhythm and Duncan made sure to amplify that when needed and make it undulate to shift the story as warranted.
What I didn’t like: A story like this, with a larger ensemble cast of secondary characters can sometimes create issues with remembering who is who. Ralston didn’t have that issue, instead making sure each moving piece had a purpose for being there. Saying that, the main reason for Savage and Sheila for going to Barrows Bay, Barclay, at one point almost became an afterthought and I found it was a long stretch before he re-entered the fray. I would’ve love just a touch more of his own journey to track down the duo, but I do understand the necessary space filled with Barrows Bay happenings.
Why you should buy it: Ralston is not only one of the best writers in the horror genre, creating lush landscapes layered with depth and gore, but he’s also one of the nicest guys in the field and one of the most supportive. ‘The Midwives’ is a horrific book and if you are wanting a dark read where things get revealed over time while you still are dealing with what just happened, then look no further.
As I mentioned at the beginning – a follow up to a book like ‘Ghostland’ can be tough, but Duncan stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park.