Ceremony of Flies by Kate Jonez is a remarkable read that grabs you by the throat in the first few pages and hurtles you to a bizarre conclusion in record time. The novella is part road story infused with petty criminals and part apocalyptic horror story complete with a creepy Catholic mission in the desert of Nevada and a demonic kid who is truly unnerving. Poor Kitty is an exploited soul working a dead end waitress job in a rather sleazy Vegas casino when she accidentally kills her boss. She escapes with the help of a casino patron named Rex who is travelling to California in hopes of landing an acting job with Jack Lord (the old Hawaii-Five-O guy whom I thought was dead – well, never mind). Instead, he is stuck trying to get Kitty to the Mexico border, but not before they are involved in additional thefts and a few more murders. If this wasn’t bad enough, they end up at this Catholic mission with a disturbing old priest and nun. The long and short of the story is that things go downhill from here, but not before you are drawn into a hellish whirlpool with the characters. And then there is this little boy, who is definitely not what he appears to be at first glance. Some reviewers were upset with the ambiguous ending and trajectory of the plot. I was not. I found the narrative engrossing, and the vague storyline added to the unnerving consequences. If you want your fiction to be tidy then you might be frustrated with the story. If you enjoy multi-layers to your horror, then take a look at this novella. By the way, Jonez tells her story from the first person point of view of Kitty. I found the voice to be engaging and unique, and I was captivated by the perspective.
Anthony Hains is a horror & speculative fiction writer.