“The Devil Crept In” by Ania Ahlborn was a little bit out of my wheelhouse. It was a creepy, gory, and thrilling horror story fit to be told around the campfire. Based in a sleepy town, focused around an intimate family with two young boy cousins who were nearly inseparable. A town where there are entirely too many strays and a lot of missing pets. A town where, once upon a time, even a sweet young boy went missing too.
Young Stevie and Jude are typical boys who play games, sometimes fight and trek through the forest behind their homes quite a bit for entertainment. The tree house they have spent much of their childhood building is their very own fortress of solitude. Stevie, having the abusive stepfather, and Jude’s father having passed away. Losing his father has hardened Jude in many ways, sometimes even towards his best friend and cousin Stevie. But Stevie has always looked up to Jude and finds Jude as the one person he can confide in regarding his home life.
Stevie has had some deeper issues in his past. Sometimes he sees things that aren’t there and he has a difficult time getting his words out due to a speech impediment. Because of this he is found to be insane, or at the very least incredible, by most. This comes to be troubling when Jude disappears one night. Stevie scours the woods and sees something at the old farmhouse they always found eerie and vacant during their forest treks. He tries to help the town find clues as to where Jude has gone. But because Jude has had anger issues and acts out, he is immediately written off as a runaway. Stevie knows that cannot possibly be the case. And then, just like that Jude shows back up. But he isn’t acting anything like himself. He is still angry and mean – but all the time now versus sometimes before. And his health and appearance seem to be continuously getting worse. Of course, Jude is also not speaking about what happened or where he has been.
With the help of Mr. Greenwood, the small-town General Store owner, Stevie digs up clues. But without the belief of his family and the town, he knows he has to do this all on his own to prove something is not right with Jude. Somehow the strays, the pets, and the quiet house in the woods owned by the late town doctor all have to do with what Jude has gone through.
Was Stevie just seeing things when he saw a monster on the porch of that quiet farmhouse in the woods? Will he ever be brave enough to face it? Can he even trust Jude anymore? Enjoy this chilling spine-tingling tale for yourself and let me know your thoughts on this read.