Willow Rose writes lots of books; most stories are in the genre horror, suspense, or fantasy. Someone assigned another genre, paranormal romance but I consider that horror even though I have never investigated tales with that designation. I know that her novels are a form of escapism for me because they are always entertaining in some twisted way. To Hell in a Handbasket is dark and entertaining. Twists many times come near the end or in the concluding few pages. With Handbasket, the twist is the very last line and I doubt anyone will see it coming. There are deceptive paragraphs preceding the end that will lead a reader to an erroneous conclusion.
Without writing a spoiler, I have mentioned where the twist is located. Are you tempted to go right away to the last page? You shouldn’t, because the sentence describing the twist doesn’t make sense without reading the entire (or almost the entire) story. This novel interested me because the end is really at the end of the story. This novel had a most satisfying ending.
Tim and Damien were classmates who needed money to go on a class trip. If they didn’t go, they would be forced to stay in school with lower classes; it would be embarrassing. Selling cookies sounded good but Tim and Damien weren’t girl scouts. They didn’t have the cute charm that motivated people to buy their cookies. A storm was coming and the two would sell no more cookies that day but they could make a stop at one last house. It almost looked abandoned except for the 1955 Cadillac in the driveway. Tim had always felt uneasy about the house, he thought it was creepy and did not want to stop. Damien talked him into it. The two old crones who answered the door delighted the pair by offering to buy all their cookies. They also invited Damien and Tim to enter the house for a visit and have some chocolate cookies. Tim decided to wait outside. Lightning hit Tim, scarred him for life, and he woke up in a hospital. Damien entered the house. No one ever saw him again.
Twenty years later Tim was an established figure in another Florida town. There was scarring from the lightning strike but it had not hurt his chances with Ava. Tim was a police officer, married to Ava, and had a son who he named Damien after his lost best friend. The pair had purchased a home they were barely able to afford with the combined earnings of Tim and Ava. Their neighborhood was near perfect except for the one abandoned house that no one wanted to buy. One day a moving van arrived with lots of furniture. Ava was pleased. A new family would take care of the place, property values would rise. Tim was pleased by the news until he saw the 1955 Cadillac. Then he saw the two old women. Tim had a couple of problems. First, the old women had probably killed his best friend. How could he now best protect his family? Second, he had never revealed his past to anyone in the town where he now lived. How could he reveal his past without sounding crazy?
At first, the old women never directly threatened Tim. They gave him “the look” that said they knew that he knew who they were. They made occasional remarks that told Tim of a shared past with the women. And things started happening around town. There were suicides and freak accidents. Veiled remarks became more transparent. Abandoned cars moved on their own. Threats happened closer to Tim’s family, Damien was in danger, the old women accidentally ran over the family dog. The breaking point was when Ava invited the elderly women to her (and Tim’s) house for tea.
These were all physical events that all could see. But Rose hints at attitude changes in the way that Cocoa Beach residents began interacting. Rose also hints at paranormal animals. After reading this novel, I will never buy a cat. Panthers are also out (read the story). Can the two sisters possess animals and work through them? Or is animal control more external with animals following the sisters’ directions?
Fans of less than extreme horror will find this a pleasant read. Except for the occasional pinky toe or ear, there is little graphic disfigurement. Depictions of sex stop at kissing although there is an attempted thigh grope of Ava by her boss. I gave this four Amazon stars because it is such a solid story. I find that in Rose Willow novels there is always some intriguing element she could explore more. That is why there are a lot of Rose Willow series and box sets. I read To Hell free on Kindle Unlimited