Readers who entangle themselves in Christopher Rice’s new book “The Vines” will find themselves ensnared in 24 hours of hell on Earth. That’s the time frame for this fast-paced horror novel that takes place primarily on the grounds of a restored plantation on the outskirts of New Orleans. The book begins with a bang when the owner of the palatial home discovers her husband’s infidelity during her own birthday party. When she flees to the property’s gazebo in a suicidal fit, her spilled blood awakens a subterranean life form whose existence might be traced back more than 150 years when it was used for both good and evil by a slave on the property. By stirring the blood-thirsty vine, Caitlin Chaisson puts the region in peril, including a best friend who has recently become estranged.
Workers on the property, especially the gardener and his young daughter, have long known that something wasn’t right at Spring House, as the plantation is called, but it isn’t until the night of Caitlin’s birthday party and the mysterious disappearance of Caitlin’s cheating husband after a horrific scene in the ground’s gardening shed that Nova begins to research strange tales dating back to the time that slaves inhabited the property. She enlists Caitlin’s friend Blake to help uncover the secrets and the deeper they dig, the more danger they encounter until Blake comes under the spell of the seemingly implacable creature. He soon discovers that through own free will and a refusal to let the plant possess him as it has Caitlin, he is able to harness the vine’s evil power and use it for more humane purposes.
This is Rice’s second venture into the horror genre and like “The Heavens Rise” he employs an organic, malevolent force that lurks below the ground. His characters in “The Vines” might be more finely drawn but his descriptive powers are in top form when conjuring images of abject terror. With this supernatural thriller he is following firmly in his mother Anne Rice’s footsteps and delivering stories that are both original and spine tingling.