Jasper Hobbs’s love of all things horror started at a young age. As a boy, he spent time at his late grandfather’s film set, watching evil come alive with blood, mayhem, and killer clowns. Now, as an adult he runs his grandfather’s gift shop full of horror collectibles, working with his best friend Sam and his girlfriend Tabatha, along with a couple other “misfits.” But things take a bad turn once Tabatha gets offered a graphic design job with an occult group and moves out of the apartment. Soon after, someone is attacked on stage by a person wearing a werewolf costume (sold at Hobbs’s store), followed by another attack at a play, this time by a vampire (a costume also bought at the store). Jasper is determined to uncover who is behind these assaults and why the store’s costumes are being worn when carrying them out.
As Jasper digs deeper, he learns the truth of the fire that ruined his grandfather’s studio many years ago – the same tragedy that also took the life of his father – and how it ties to the present circumstances, all while gaining a better glimpse into the occult. There is very little conflict but plenty of fist pumps, compliments, and explanation points, making the relationships less believable than black magic. Even after Tabatha leaves Jasper, his demeanor never changes. He is either over-the-top friendly or in “business mode”, as the author describes frequently. It’s only when young Jasper spends time with his grandfather do we see a relationship that feels authentic, packed with genuine gestures, tender dialogue, and a snippet of friction.
The chapters weave in and out of the past, which tends to feel all over the place, going back 10 years, 19 years ago, and 24 years ago, often adding very little to the overall story. A moment where more background information would be helpful is when Jasper and Tabatha broke up, which seems to come out of nowhere. At times there is odd spacing found in the text and the author’s heavy use of large font to describe a sign or label (GERMS ARE EVERYWHERE, STEALING SUCKS, TRA-A-A-A-A-ASH) tends to make the type distracting.
Wendy Drinkwater gives readers a playful look into the world of collectibles and horror films in HOBBS’S HORRIFIC ARTS AND GIFTS, but is less successful in conveying her characters emotions.
~Carissa Chesanek for IndieReader