I grew up in a pretty small town at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills in Northern California. I spent forty years of my life in a rural, retirement community. Believe me when I emphatically tell you, a quaint, idyllic town is far more threatening to you than big city life. The idea is that everyone who lives in a small town knows everyone else and this somehow creates security and a sense of comfort: if you know everyone by first and last name and everything about who they are, where they live, what they do, the chances are slim that any harm from these people that you “know” will befall you. This could not be further from the truth.
All families have secrets that they keep hidden behind locked doors. Sure, they might go to the local church on Sunday in their finest with a big smile on their face but that’s just for show. You might bump into someone at the store and they seem friendly, but what do you know about them, really?
Skillute, WA. A fictional, rural town in the Pacific Northwest created by the author S. P. Miskowski. Many, if not all, of Miskowski’s books take place in Skillute. The first book of hers I read, Knock, Knock, got my attention and made me an instant fan. Since then, I’ve read Delphine Dodd, The Worst is Yet to Come, and now her newest novella, The Best of Both Worlds.
Skillute, as it turns out, is not the kind of place you’d want to raise a family. Just as I mentioned earlier, this rural town has a lot of secrets. Roland and Pigeon are adult siblings who inherited their family’s farm after both of their parents passed away.
They both work at a nearby school. He’s a janitor and she works in the cafeteria. They pretty much keep their heads down and mind their own business, preferring only the company of each other.
Miskowski is a master of drawing readers into the lives of her protagonists. Due to her skilled sleight of hand, readers become emotionally invested before they really know what they’re getting into. Reading the back copy on this novella, you may gather that Roland and Pigeon are not healthy, morally functional people, but by the time you’ve discovered what’s actually going on, it’s too late–you’ve developed a deep attachment to these characters that feels weird and shameful, like you’re rooting for the bad guys.
Everything is seen right up close; it’s impossible to look away.
This is a classic story of “hurt people hurt people.” It’s a painful journey. Miskowski even brings some supernatural elements into the plotline, which complicates the true crime style of the narrative and makes it shine, representative of Miskowski’s storytelling across all her books. I recommend this one to readers who enjoy quick, fast-paced stories, short chapters, complicated characters, small-town horror, suspense, and the unexpected.