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‘The Terror at Turtleshell Mountain:’ Book Review

Sean McDonough’s novel, The Terror at Turtleshell Mountain, is billed as horror, but, to me, it feels more like dark comedy.  Maybe I’m just a sick, jaded reader, but the idea of an otherworldly massacre at a theme park billed as the “Most Joyous Place on Earth” gives me a case of the giggles (Okay, maybe it’s the not-so-veiled comparison to Disney that tickles my distorted funny bone.); however, I certainly understand that not everyone will enjoy the warped portrayal of rides, beloved animated characters, and days out enjoying the magic of a theme park.

The plot jumps around a little in time, slowly revealing how the actions of the past affected current events.  The main storyline focuses on two groups: a fivesome of police friends spending time together at Turtleshell Mountain as the means for one member to share the news about her cancer, and a youth pastor with his group of eighteen children enjoying a day of rides and fun.  Of course, things start going horribly wrong on multiple levels early into the trip, although the first missteps are as small as missing the opportunity to ask a love interest out and feeling nauseated after yet another thrill ride. When the park murderously roars to life and the body count becomes staggering, it’s anyone’s guess who, if anyone, will make it out from the massacre alive!

With such an over-the-top premise, I didn’t expect much from the characterization, but McDonough pleasantly surprised me with an interesting primary cast.  Tess and Minister Ed stood out to me particularly, although I also developed a soft spot for Aaron by the end of the story. The main cast all got enough development that their demises were jarring and a bit of a shock. The mysterious figure of Charles Tuttle, the creator of the entire Turtleshell Mountain movie and theme park franchise, also is explored through the flashbacks in ways that keep him from being a mere mustache-twirling villain.  Is he a dark figure? Definitely, but he’s not only evil.

I can’t say too much about the details of the plot without spoiling it for readers, but just know that a theme park gone mad and trying to destroy the happy visitors is the main plot.  It’s filled with death, viscera, and horrible depictions of good characters gone bad, but a theme of hope winds through it a little, making readers (at least me) believe that there might be at least one survivor.  People who dislike horror or find gore or violence against children disturbing should pass over this book, but if you have a strong stomach and very dark sense of humor, I suspect you’ll enjoy this as much as I did. 

Overall, I loved The Terror at Turtleshell Mountain, because it appealed to my less wholesome urges and allowed me to laugh at tragedy that was extraordinarily bizarre. If the idea of evil Disney theme parks brings a smile to your face or a twinkle to your eye, pick this up! You will not be disappointed.  It’ll entertain, engage, and maybe even coax out a reluctant and semi-horrified chuckle. 

5 Single Riders out of 5

Jodi Scaife, Fanbase Press Social Media Strategist


Mid-30s geek type with a houseful of pets, books, DVDs, CDs, and manga


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