Book #101 for this year was a surprise to me. It was absolutely not the parody of horror novels I thought it would be, but a wry, dryly funny honest-to-god horror story. And it was damn satisfying in spite of being horror-lite.
The action takes place in the Orsk the “all-American furniture superstore in Scandinavian drag,” an IKEA knock-off where the prices are lower and, presumably, the merchandise reflects that.
You have your usual cast of characters. Amy is a disaffected 20-something who is beyond barely making ends meet. If she doesn’t pay the $600 rent she owes, she’ll have to go back and live in her mother’s trailer. She hates her job, hates her life, and sees no percentage in making any sort of effort. Consequently she always feels as if she’s on the verge of being fired. Basil, her manager, comes from the gung-ho-memorized-the-entire-manual school of management, and Amy hates him. Ruth Anne is an older woman who is beloved of everyone because she’s unfailingly nice, and she works hard. That these three are the people who stay after hours to figure out who is vandalizing the store (broken items, human, uh, substances left on the sofas) is a recipe for, well maybe not disaster, but you know it won’t end well.
When they do find the intruder, a homeless man named Carl, and are joined by two other employees who think the store is haunted and are trying to document the supernatural activity in hope of selling their show idea to Bravo, things begin to get strange. The police are called, there’s a seance, Amy gets a dose of reality that shakes her out of her don’t-care attitude, and there are ghosts. Lots of them. Because the Orsk property has a horrible history.
Most of the humor comes out of the send up of IKEA, their product names, and the products themselves, and Hendrix has a really good ear for that kind of parody. It’s funny without ever going over the top, and without ever blunting the real horror. The product names become more sinister — Mesonxic struck me as Lovecraftian — and the products themselves become less faux Scandiavian and more Scando-Spanish Inquisition style. I laughed even while I was thinking, Euuu, that’s SO wrong!
Terrible things do happen, people die, bits get torn off, and ultimately those who get out alive come away with the sense that this isn’t finished. When I reached the end, I thought, There has got to be a sequel. I want a sequel!
So yeah, I enjoyed the heck out of it. And if it’s a little lightweight, that’s fine. I don’t need buckets of gore with my horror. I like it when my imagination is a big part of why I have The Wiggins. I don’t often smile when I think about horror stories, but this one does make me grin even as I think, Well, I’ll never look at IKEA the same way again.