Generally, when you book an Airbnb, you expect the owner to color the description to make the place sound more positive than it really is. They may say it is part of a nicer neighborhood nearby. They may say it sleeps six, by which they mean that it has a queen-size bed and two full-sized air mattresses. You know that if a place seems too good to be true, there’s going to be a problem with it. Despite this, you don’t expect to find you are staying in a house filled with murderous ghosts.
That is the premise of Mike Carey (Lucifer, X-Men: Legacy) and Mike Perkins’ (Captain America, Deathlok) Rowans Ruin. It was first published by BOOM! Studios as a four issue mini-series. The trade paperback collects all four issues into one edition. This book reminded me of, and is clearly influenced by, the best of Hammer Studio’s series of thrillers from the 60s and 70s, where someone – usually an American – comes to a place outside a quaint English village only to discover that something is seriously wrong. The story smartly alternates back and forth from beautiful daytime scenes outside the house and in the village to dark and moody night times in the house that put the characters and reader on edge.
In this case, the American is Katie, a grad student from Florida, who wants to take a long break from her studies and her parents for the summer before diving back into her studies. She looks into a an online house-swap site and is put in contact with a young British woman, Emily, who is willing to trade her large, old farm-house for a small Floridian apartment for a summer. Katie enjoys the English countryside and the charming house called Rowans Rise.
But at night, she starts to have vivid nightmares and thinks she sees people who aren’t there. Katie begins to look into the history of the house and finds that it is connected to a number of unusual deaths. Are her nightmares real? Is she being attacked by ghosts? Or is she letting her imagination get the best of her? Is she slowly driving herself crazy?
Carey’s story does a long, slow, burn in the beginning of the book. Even as he makes the village and countryside idyllic, he blends in old traditions that modern people find disturbing. Like any good thriller the book is smartly paced and is an addictive read. Katie is smart and charming and it is believable that she could easily make several friends in the village who help her find uncover the mystery that surrounds Rowans Rise. When the action kicks in, the reader is let loose on a creepy thrill-ride.
Shifting between the bright sunny days where Katie is seeing her friends and the nervousness of the nights which she spends alone in a large, strange, old house, Perkin’s art really showcases Katie’s feelings of isolation and nervousness. He also does a great job of contrasting Katie’s openness and concern with Emily’s suspicions and closed off attitude during their Skype conversations.
I do have one criticism of Perkin’s art. The way he draws the ghosts’ hands is weird. The fingers are thick and seem to lack knuckles. They looked more like an unfortunate collection of penises than fingers. This was creepy for all the wrong reasons.
Overall, the book is a great read. It is easy to get lost in the story and blow through the whole book in one sitting. If you enjoy a something dark and mysterious during the long, winter nights, this would be a good choice.
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Mike Perkins
Colors: Andy Troy
Publisher: BOOM! Studios