(Disclosure notice: I received a free copy of The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature from Crossroad Press for review purposes. I really need to write a generic disclosure notice.)
You know, in the end, I really have only one complaint about this book, its title is way too long: The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature. It’s fifteen words long! Come on. But that being said, I am starting this review by saying the only thing there is to say about it, “go buy a copy.” Buy it now. Right now. You will not be disappointed. It is the most fun I have had reading/listening to a horror novel in years.
The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature (which I will refer to as CletusJ. Diggs for the rest of this review) is the story of good ol’ boys, perversion of science, and ancient religion. It is set in Old Mill, a small town in North Carolina. It stars, as you’d guess from the title, the Reverend Cletus J. Diggs (who is also a common law attorney, private investigator, tabloid journalist, and anything else he can learn via a correspondence course). Cletus is drawn into the strange going-ons in the back wood of North Carolina when his friend Jasper enlists his help in removing a dead man from his “secret” fishing hole. Things for Cletus, Jasper and Sheriff Bob go down hill from there.
Now I lived in South Carolina for a couple of years, and I currently live in small town Minnesota. I am sure I have met some of the people in this story, or at least there distant cousins. Although the characters depicted in Cletus J. Diggs are humorous, many of them are as real as the guys who live in the trailer park on the other side of town.
This audiobook is humorous, but its humor masks a deep seated dark horror that, in the end, made me squirm. The characters are fun and odd, but they are real. They may act odd, but they feel the same horror and the same fears we do when faced with perversion and evil and “the things that man was not meant to know”. The characters reactions to these are real and not just played for laughs.
And yes, Cletus J. Diggs is laugh out loud funny in places. But it is also dark and disturbing others. Very disturbing. In fact this story reminded me of what made Lovecraft’s work so brilliant.
I am impressed by David Wilson’s ability to keep the humor alive without dispelling the underlying sense of dread. I wish I could write this well.
In fact, it is the end of this novel (which I will not spoil for you) when Cletus comes face to face with the truth, that stuck with me. How Cletus reacted to that truth made me love the story all the more. The ending was disturbing and left me with a true sense of dread. And I think that dread felt by both Cletus and myself is well described by my favorite quote from Lovecraft’s work:
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” – Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft
The narration by Joe Geoffrey definitely enhances and compliments the story. The voices he did for each character are unique. He captures the pace and style of life of a small town well in his inflections and accents and easy going style. It is pleasure the listen to.
I give The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs and the Currently Accepted Habits of Nature five out of five snark bites overall (four out of five snark bites for the audio and six out of five snark bites for the story). Go pick up a copy right now.