But it could be said also that there is a great vitality in the mean-spiritedness of the town's inhabitants. Sometimes they are creatively cruel to one another, and there were seasons in which Pine Cone was an exciting place to live--if you were a spectator, and not a victim.
Twenty-year-old Sarah Howell works on the assembly line in the munitions factory, endlessly putting in three screws into the rifles that will go off to the boys fighting on the foreign front lines. Her husband Dean was to be one of them, but it's what happens to him in the prologue that sets the horrific events in motion. He isn't killed but he might as well be dead; his face is swathed in bandages and his brain has been nearly pulverized. Sarah and Dean's mother Jo care for him now in Jo's home, and Sarah bitterly realizes her permanent widowhood in which she must always bear her husband's corpse at her side.
Take a look at the cover image at top from Avon (thanks to the great fantasy illustrator Don Ivan Punchatz). You're getting exactly that! The amulet gets passed inadvertently from victim to victim; Sarah nearly goes out of her mind with fear trying to figure out just how that happens. With her superstitious next-door neighbor Becca, they try to track its path, but can never quite manage to stop the amulet's power. Effortlessly McDowell lets us into the minds of the people who wear it, and how it suddenly makes them commit the most horrible deeds - horrible deeds that seem all too rational to the people who perpetrate them: the mother who cannot stand her screaming children, the wife who realizes her husband is cheating on her, the teenage babysitter who just knows how to discipline an infant...
The Amulet is a near-perfect example of a paperback original horror novel. Author McDowell graces us with a truly despicable villain, a sympathetic heroine, a vivid and engaging sense of place and time, and yes, scenes of unsettling, inventive violence and horror and bloodshed. The innocent suffer, yet perhaps no one's hands are clean; the factory that creates mechanisms of death and employs so many in the town stands in for our complicity in the violence that stains not just faraway lives but those in our very own homes.
Obtain The Amulet by any means necessary.