The Still Place
Greg F. Gifune and Sandy DeLuca
JournalStone Publishing (September 1, 2023)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers

The Still Place by Greg F. Gifune and Sandy DeLuca is an enthralling masterpiece of suspense, horror, and psychological tension that will leave readers utterly spellbound as it did me. This collaboration between two formidable writers has produced a work of fiction that is nothing short of exceptional, delivering an unforgettable reading experience. While I am very familiar with Greg Gifune’s work, I had not previously read Gifune and DeLuca’s previous collaborations, Blue Hell and Bridge of Souls, nor any of Sandy DeLuca’s solo work. I am delighted to report that Gifune and DeLuca are wonderful collaborators who have produced a truly remarkable novel in The Still Place.

The heart of The Still Place is Mina, a complex and troubled young painter whose journey is both mesmerizing and harrowing. Her character is meticulously crafted, and readers will find themselves deeply immersed in her struggles, fears, and aspirations. Mina is an artist who grew up as a foster child and it shows. She has true talent, but she’s virtually friendless, and she smokes too much, drinks too much, and uses too many drugs. Her talent is worthy of recognition, but she labors in obscurity. Until an eccentric group of artists offers her a six-month residency in the dying town of Crow’s Cry. Mina immediately takes the bus to this desolate town, “Shadow Over Innsmouth” style, and is given an apartment surrounded by her fellow artists. She is fawned over and showered with compliments by this group of older artists and thinks that as odd as they may be, she just might have found her home. The group is led by the elderly Klaus Riker, a scarred man with a past even more troubled than Mina’s, though he seems beloved, almost worshipped by the other artists. Then the strangeness begins.

From the very first pages, Gifune and DeLuca draw readers into a world of profound unease and relentless suspense. The pacing of the narrative is masterful, creating an atmosphere that is thick with tension and foreboding. As you delve deeper into the story, you’ll find yourself unable to put the book down, compelled to uncover the dark secrets lurking in the enigmatic coastal town of Crow’s Cry.

The authors’ exploration of artistic obsession, the occult, and madness is nothing short of brilliant. They deftly blur the lines between reality, dreams, substance use, and the supernatural, keeping readers on edge and questioning the nature of the uncertainty and dawning horrors that unfold. The sense of dread and the gradual unraveling of the truth are executed with precision, leaving you with a lingering sense of disquiet. I came to love Mina and Ralph in the course of the novel and lament what they experience. I should also note that Sandy DeLuca is an artist as well as an author and boy, does her art expertise come through in The Still Place. It is rare that artistic creation—both the process itself and the obsession and need that underlie the creation of art—is depicted satisfyingly, but DeLuca and Gifune manage it masterfully.

I mentioned DeLuca and Gifune’s characterization previously, but I’d like to emphasize that that is the core strength of The Still Place. Not only is Mina a fully realized person—I have known several Minas in my life and she definitely resonates with me—but so are all of the constellation of secondary characters that swirl around her: Ralph, her dissolute but wise best friend; Tiffany, a teenage grocery store clerk with whom Mina interacts; the other artists in Crow’s Cry. It may be a cliché to say it, but these felt like real people. Which, of course, makes the events of The Still Place all the more poignant and tragic.

The Still Place is a testament to the authors’ storytelling prowess. Their collaboration has produced a novel that is both vibrant and haunting, with prose that is as evocative as it is chilling. The book’s soul shattering conclusion is both satisfying and thought-provoking.

The Still Place is a remarkable work of horror fiction that transcends the genre. Greg F. Gifune and Sandy DeLuca have crafted a narrative that is a fine blend of suspense, psychological horror, and supernatural elements. It’s a book that you’ll savor like a fine wine, and it will leave an indelible mark on your psyche. If you’re a fan of horror that challenges the boundaries of fear and explores the depths of the human soul, this is a must-read. I very much want The Still Place to receive the attention it deserves. Prepare to be enthralled, disturbed, and utterly captivated by the dark beauty of The Still Place. Highly recommended.