Passover, a supernatural thriller co-written by Aphrodite Anagnost and Robert P. Arthur (Koehler Books 2015), is set in present-day Virginia in the small town of Zebulon, which is based on a real location near author Aphrodite Anagnost’s home. The novel weaves elements of religion, the supernatural, and the Holocaust into a single edge-of-your-seat thriller.
A killer is loose in Zebulon, and it’s up to Sheriff Phil Wise to stop the murders before the next family is devastated by the loss of a first-born son. While no two of the murders have the same modus operandi, Sheriff Wise knows who’s next: the Sheltons, who live in the next house on Burnt Chestnut Road. In a race against time, Rachel Shelton and her husband, Dave, along with close friends, wait as the sun begins to set for the murderer to make his move. However, what they don’t expect is for the murderer to be the vengeful spirit of a murdered Jewish man, killed twenty years before in a gruesome hate crime, who believes he’s the Angel of Death come to set his people free.
The premise of the novel is insanely interesting. Set during the night of Passover, there’s a lot of supernatural happenings and enough ghosts to please any fan of horror fiction. However, the promise of the plot is overrun by too many characters’ perspectives. The story would have been better told from two or three main characters, each with his or her own focused chapter. Likewise, Rachel Shelton, one of the protagonists, was severely unlikeable. (To the authors’ credit, they do have her husband, Dave, point out that she’s being unnecessarily rude.) However, I should note I am not a mother, so the stress of Rachel’s situation was most likely lost on me, as I cannot relate. To mothers out there, you might find her remarkably honest and relatable.
How ghosts and the supernatural work in the novel is hard to follow at first. The mythology is never fully explained and leaves the reader wondering what type of ghosts these are and what their powers include. Although there is a character, Rachel's mother, Beatricia, whose main purpose is to create an understanding of the spiritual world for the human characters, many questions remain in the readers’ minds.
Once the reader gets into the heart of the novel about mid-way, the story becomes much stronger and engrossing. As the action builds and night draws near, the reader will find herself wondering if the Sheltons will be able to save their first-born sons from the vengeful spirit; if anyone else will die unnecessarily; or if Beatricia will summon one of the ghosts to the house.
This isn’t your mother’s supernatural thriller. The vivid descriptions are downright shiver-inducing at times. Even with its faults (too many points of view, fast-paced ghost mythology), PASSOVER is supported by a unique and interesting take on a vengeful spirit with interesting historical and religious facts of Judaism and Egyptian myth.