SNOWBALL By Gregory Bastianelli
Flame Tree Press, s/b, £10.88
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
It’s Christmas Eve, and everyone is rushing to get home to their families. As the song goes, snow is falling all around, and an unlucky bunch of travellers are (unlike the song) simply not going to have a wonderful Christmas time. The snowfall gets heavier and heavier until a group of 8 vehicles and their occupants find themselves trapped behind a stuck snow plough on an isolated stretch of highway. A mix of people, all seemingly unconnected – a middle-aged couple rushing to take last-minute gifts home to their children, a young couple, a charity collector from the Salvation Army, a single mother with her two young children and others.
Some of the travellers check out the snowplough and find the cabin empty, with no sign of the driver and the seat drenched with blood. Everyone congregates in an RV owned by an elderly couple that are stuck alongside them and start sharing their stories over hot drinks and snacks. Soon, strange things begin to happen, and one by one, the travellers start to disappear or die. With three killer snowmen on the loose and a mysterious presence orchestrating everything, it becomes clear that this has not all happened by chance.
Bastianelli explores the themes of family (what would you do to avenge a perceived wrong against a member of your family) and consequences (even the smallest of actions can have far-reaching consequences that can take decades to catch up with you – the titular snowball features heavily here). The dialogue between the characters is convincing and feels pretty realistic, and the characters themselves feel fairly well-rounded. I enjoyed the action in the book and the way that he builds the tension as the travellers gradually start to realise that they are in danger. All in all, an enjoyable read from an author to watch in the horror genre.