The Chill (2020) by Scott Carson was almost too creepy for me, but I couldn’t stop reading about a town, Galesburg, flooded by a dam that created the Chilewaukee Reservoir in upstate New York. The reservoir is part of the water supply system for New York City, and, as happened all over the country when rivers were “harnessed” by dams for various reasons, the people living in the way of the water had to leave.
But what if they didn’t? The past haunts the present for many people involved with the dam, locally known as The Chill, including Aaron Ellsworth, the son of the local sheriff who practiced his swimming there, but washed out of Coast Guard rescue swimming training, and Gillian Mathers, a local girl, become an environmental cop, raised in Queens by her father Deshawn after both her mother and grandmother died. Deshawn is haunted, too, in his work as a sandhog, one of the many men who work thousands of feet before the surface, digging the tunnels that ensure The City has water.
We meet the Sheriff, Steve, a man so concerned about his son’s recent behavior he’s going to send him to rehab, and Mick Fleming, the Dept. of Environmental Protection engineer, who has serious concerns about the health of the dam, given its age and lack of maintenance funding over the years. The Sheriff’s grandfather happened to be the sheriff when the dam was going in, and Galesburg was flooded, and Mick Fleming’s grandfather designed the dam.
Carson is a pseudonym of Michael Koryta, and this is as good and as creepy as the other novels of his that I’ve read–So Cold the River and The Ridge (both supernatural thrillers set in/near Indiana)–with the disaster element of Those Who Wish Me Dead. Koryta has written that his supernatural novels will be written as Scott Carson, while he’ll handle the human evils, such as assassins who pursue children, who are also caught in the middle of forest fires.
And the greatest thing about this novel? It was completely weight-neutral. While there were no explicitly fat characters, there were also no fat characters whose fatness was used as a joke or as shorthand for their supposed character flaws. Koryta has a long backlist, but I can only handle thrillers or horror books in small doses. The Chill was worth it, though.