Book of the Month, May: The Auctioneer

Horror comes in many forms.  A standard horror trope is the creeper in the dark.  There’s something sinister out there and we can’t see it, but we know it’s coming closer.  It’s going to get us.

I’ve always found the monsters to be scarier in daylight.  The scariest thing is to see what’s coming at you.  They see you, you see them.  If you have no place to run or hide, it makes it that much worse.  At least in the dark the playing field may be a little more level as the monsters may not find you so easy.

On its surface, Joan Samson’s The Auctioneer may not seem the typical horror story.  As it draws you in, and carries you along its sinister way, you’ll find you’ve been mistaken.  There are plenty of monsters to be found within its pages.  Worse yet, you see the monster and it not only has a human face, but a recognizable one.  Like the greatest of terrors, there’s nowhere to hide.  It’s the most unsettling kind of daylight horror novel.

John Moore lives a quiet life on his farm with his wife, Mim, his young daughter Hildie, and his mom.  It’s land he has lived on all his life in the quiet New England town of Harlowe.  John has known his neighbors, and most of the townsfolk, his entire life.  He depends on the land for sustenance and income, and, just like the town and everyone else, John and his family have to make every penny count.

Maybe what Harlowe needs is a shot in the arm and a dose of new blood in the form of Perly Dunsmore.  Perly is a fresh breath of air, at first, for the hamlet.  He wants to help the town grow, inject it with progress and attract new faces to its simple way of life.  He’s done it before in other towns, and all he needs is the good people of Harlowe to pitch in and help.

The key to Harlowe’s future, per Perly, is the auctioning block.  Perly’s auctions, with goods donated by the townspeople, will bring in visitors from outside.  When these visitors see what Harlowe has to offer, a purity of country living, they won’t be able to resist moving to the town.  Harlowe gets economic growth, more opportunities will arise, and everybody wins.

That’s how it’s explained to John when the sheriff and the auctioneer come to visit him.  Perly, who is able to get the town officials in his pocket with the slickest of ease, only asks John, and the other the good people of Harlowe, to donate what they can spare, whatever clutter they have laying unused on their farms and around the house.

That’s how it begins.  Donate whatever they don’t want.  It soon escalates to donate what they have or else.  Before long, people are losing their homes, their land, and when children go missing, John and Mim decide to take a stand before they lose their own daughter.