The second book in the literary Supernatural spinoff series is Witch's Canyon by Jeff Mariotte. Published in October 2007, this story takes place right after the first novel Nevermore by Keith R A DeCandido but you don't need to read the first novel prior to this one.
On a tip from NYPD Detective McBain, the boys head to the Grand Canyon (the â€˜big hole' as Dean calls it) to investigate a series of mysterious murder sprees that have occurred there every forty years.
Though set in the beautiful vistas of Grand Canyon National park, this is no vacation for the brothers. The Winchesters head for the town of Cedar Wells in a tiny corner of the Arizona desert, and a stretch of deserted ranchland on its outskirts and run right into the heart of a group of vicious, vindictive, and totally dead, killers that are terrorizing the small town.
In the past, the area's inhabitants have been few and far between, but a nearby mega-mall is about to celebrate its grand opening, and attract thousands of new peopleâ€¦..and new victims. From eons of by-gone days, a deadly horde of animal spirits and human ghosts have arisen. The spectral apparitions are coming back and killing their victims in the same way they were killed. As the dead from each cycle add to the ghost army for the next one, the Winchester boys are determined to break the curse, stop the "forty-year-cycle" (deemed a myth by most of its residents), and keep the mall opening from increasing the body count by a factor of ten.
This is a great suspense filled thriller well written by Jeff Mariotte who is not a stranger to sci-fi or mystery novels. He is also known for his western/horror novels and comic books like Desperadoes, and one of his all time favorites is Zorro. An Arizona native, he has written more than thirty original novels as well as books set in the universes of Las Vegas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Conan, Charmed, Star Trek, C.S.I, Criminal Minds, and Andromeda.
Mariotte set his novel in the Grand Canyon to use a landmark that they'd never be able to showing on the TV series. The same was true for the novels Nevermore, and the third in the series Bone Key, set in the Florida Keys. No way would Vancouver ever look like NY or the Everglades.
Mariotte knows the nuances that make the show work. His side characters were well rounded, real people that you develop an interest in and sympathy for. It does have its share of female side characters, but rather then overshadowing the boys, they instead compliment them and fuel the storyline. The author has a great interpretation of the Winchester boys themselves, but also an excellent mix of drama, horror, comedy, action and even a little romance.
The author put in some nice family flashbacks of Sam and Dean's childhood, and gives you a little glimpse of how it was growing up under John Winchester. The author aptly depicts the Winchesters, Sam being the caring sympathetic soul and Dean the hardened, careful hunter that we all know and love. But the author put in some good moments of real interaction between them as well. You can see the western/horror interest in Mariotte as Witch's Canyon had a distinctly western flair yet was very Winchesters in toneâ€¦.a little Dawn of the Dead climax too.
Compared to the first novel of the series, Witch's Canyon is an edgier, more difficult case, which guarantees more action and thrills. The story moved quickly, the plot was intense, and the action was fun to read, but had less humor and brotherly bonding moments that in Nevermore. The seriousness of the plot doesn't lend itself well to a lot of Winchester banter, although it is not absent from the book, and both Dean and Sam deliver some great one-liners.
This one was a bit more graphic in terms of violence, so don't be surprised if a few nightmares develop. The fight scene between the brothers and the grizzly gave me the heepie jeepies for a long time. The appearance of the bear gave some good Sam and Dean interactions too.
Dean: "What is it?"
Baird: We got a visitor. Not the friendly kind, neither."
Baird wasn't kidding.
The bear had to be seven feet tall, standing up on its hind legs. A grizzly, a species probably long since wiped out in this area, with light brown fur, teeth that dripped menace and claws like daggers.
Sam: "Dean? What is it?"
Dean: "It ain't Smokey."
Sam:" Smokeyâ€¦..Dean is there a bear outside?"
Dean was about to respond, but the grizzly gave a silent roar,â€¦..its head thrown back, its paws failing at empty air.
Sam: "I'll take that as a yes."
Dean: "Yeah. That about sums it up."
The fight scene that follows is very vivid and easy to visualize through the author's eyes. No matter how many times I read it, it still gives me the shivers.
Witch's Canyon reads like a long episode and works better as a straight-up horror narrative than a genre tie-in novel. There are 357 pages of blood and gore in a classic Kripke style, and a generally cold, grim, gruesome and fatalistic atmosphere. It has that kind of claustrophobia-in-wide-open-spaces that make so many horror fans LOVE the genre. Unlike Nevermore, however, Witch's Canyon could never be a TV episodeâ€¦.way to much paranormal activity and mystical special effects for the small screen, but it would make one hell of a movie.
You don't even have to be a fan of the show to enjoy this book. Witch's Canyon is a good "monster of the week" story and Sam and Dean work as a well oiled fighting machine whether together or apart. As they say themselves in the book, "this is what we do, and we're good at it."