Shy Grove

A Ghost Story

Fiction - Horror
278 Pages
Reviewed on 04/01/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Scott A. Johnson is the author of nine horror, dark urban fantasy, and paranormal novels. He's also written three true ghost guides, a Lovecraftian chapbook, and a short story collection. He currently lives somewhere near Austin, Texas, with his wife, daughter, and pug.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.J. Simmill for Readers' Favorite

Gary could never have afforded a house like the one left to him by his estranged aunt. It was large, it came with a barn, a large plot of land, and a history none of them could have ever imagined. It was summer break, so Gary took his family there to complete the inventory, sell off the things worth parting with, and maybe, just maybe, repair some of their family bonds. But this house has a past, the land has a memory. Strange and eerie happenings start to occur, but they can be dismissed as the strange quirks of the house only for so long. But Gary seems happy, like he belongs, or at least like the person he is slowly becoming belongs. Can they realise the danger in time, what secrets did this house harbour, and why does their presence within disturb the people of the town? Find out in Scott A. Johnson's Shy Grove: A Ghost Story.

I loved the initial subtlety of Shy Grove: A Ghost Story, with easily dismissible events, stray thoughts, and bizarre happenings. The gradual change in Gary's personality is fascinating to observe and, as a reader, you do so with both fear and dread. Scott A. Johnson writes with fantastic skill to conjure up great atmosphere, tension, and concern for the characters. The gradual escalation is presented masterfully and the plot has a few surprises in store. You get a good feel for the characters, who they were, who they are, and who this place is forcing them to become. This is certainly one of the best ghost stories I've read this year. Once it has you in its thrall, you'll find it hard to tear yourself away.

Jack Magnus

Shy Grove: A Ghost Story is a horror novel written by Scott A. Johnson. Gary hardly remembered his Aunt Ester, crazy Aunt Ester. So, learning that she had left her house and the acreage it was sitting on, to him made no sense at all. When he, his wife and their son drove through the little town of Shy Grove, however, they started to wonder just what it was they had gotten into. Shy Grove was just a bit short of being a ghost town, yet it was the center of civilization compared to Aunt Ester’s house itself. They had to navigate a barely visible dirt road to get to the house, and the house itself was covered in rotting ivy. Inside, stale air competed with the odors of must and mold, and the ragged curtains and threadbare carpets contributed to the general feeling of malaise. Gary knew there was no way he could fix up this place on his teacher’s salary, but he thought that maybe working on it through the summer would help them make a bit of money out of the bequest. He also thought that his son would benefit from a summer without the internet. Gary kind of liked the idea that the three of them could become a family again. But something dark was at work in the house, and each of them felt it almost instantly. First there was that knocking, and the whispers.

Scott A. Johnson’s horror novel, Shy Grove: A Ghost Story, will delight anyone who grew up loving spooky stories. Johnson deftly builds up the tension as Gary, Zach and Angela cope with Aunt Ester’s strange old house and the oddly hostile residents of Shy Grove. Also, cleverly hidden within this story is an awesome coming of age tale as fourteen-year-old Zach investigates noises, restores an antique car and finally makes a real-life friend. As the story progresses, Zach’s role builds and seeing him grow strong and confident is awesome. Shy Grove is one of those books that merit a long stretch of uninterrupted time in a comfortable chair. Johnson’s story gets the reader hooked instantly, the plot unfolds beautifully, and the horror builds quite nicely indeed. I’ll be looking for more horror offerings by this author. Shy Grove: A Ghost Story is most highly recommended.

K M Steele

When the Carter family inherits a country home they never knew existed, the stage is set in Shy Grove by Scott A. Johnson for a good old-fashioned horror story. After the Carters arrive at the property and settle in, the house and local residents are both judged suitably creepy and terrifically boring by fourteen-year-old Zach, the only son of Gary and Angela. As the narrative ticks along, Zach’s attitude changes when he finds an antique truck in the shed, and a gorgeous girl working at the spare parts store in Shy Grove. Despite Zach’s blossoming romance, it is clear that all is not well at home, or in the town.

Shy Grove does not stray from the conventions of its genre, but that does not mean it is predictable. This is Scott A. Johnson’s ninth novel and it shows. As the tension builds steadily and the family slowly spirals out of control, each character develops an individual voice and many of the early scenes are cinematic – it is easy to imagine portions of this narrative adapted to film. The Preacher in the novel is a fantastic example of a character that evolves as the narrative reveals his story. There are some violent scenes in the story, but the author does not dwell unnecessarily on the detail, and each one is in context to the larger story. Overall, Shy Grove will appeal to readers of horror who prefer terror to gore and suspense to gratuitous violence, which is entirely in keeping from an author with a website called!

Teresa Syms

Shy Grove by Scott A. Johnson is a ghost story that takes the reader on a riveting journey into the lives of Gary, Angela, and their fourteen-year-old son, Zach. When Gary’s crazy Aunt Ester dies, a woman he barely knew, Gary learns he is her sole heir. Moving to her run-down farm in Shy Grove, Texas for the summer, the family is faced with two monumental tasks. First, to catalogue her belongings, and second, to repair and rebuild their relationship. Immediately, strange voices are heard, shadows are seen in empty rooms, and loud thumping from under the living room floor rattles the house and their sanity. But it is Gary’s change in personality that terrifies Zach and Angela the most. They know there is something wrong with the farm, but how can they escape from the horror that is there, and now lives in Gary.

The reader will be captivated by this ghost story from the very beginning. With each page turned, you will be drawn deeper into the lives of Gary, Angela and Zach as they battle with not only their deteriorated family life, but also the growing evil that is rising up from the farm itself. Scott A. Johnson has created a gripping, thrilling and spell-binding ghost story that leaves the reader shocked and cheering for Zach. He grows from an angry young boy into a man as he uncovers the long-ago demons of the farm, and the truth of his crazy Aunt Ester. The evil that exists on the farm is no match for Zach’s courage and love for his family. I truly enjoyed Shy Grove. I was unable to put this book down. From the first to the last page, Shy Grove: A Ghost Story will draw the reader in and maybe let you out again. Excellent!

Romuald Dzemo

Shy Grove: A Ghost Story by Scott A. Johnson is the kind of story that fans of horror will love to devour and the kind you don’t read if you plan to sleep at night. Ester, Gary’s aunt, had always been eccentric. She had been a private person. Now she is dead and Gary moves into her house with his wife and son. While he intends to take stock of his aunt’s belongings, he is determined to make his relationship work. But strange things start happening on their first night in the house — shadows lurking in corridors, strange sounds, and an unsettling feeling of being watched. Are they alone in this house, and why is Gary not acting like the man he used to be?

The suspense and the eeriness that permeate the story leave the reader edgy, anxious, and with goosebumps. The writing is gorgeous, and the author’s economy of words and precision in descriptions capture images, sounds, movements and sights that will flood the reader’s senses. Here is a novel that makes readers feel haunted, and the author does an awesome job in creating a sense of mystery in the story. Scott A. Johnson is a master storyteller and his gift for character and plot comes across beautifully in Shy Grove: A Ghost Story. Shy Grove as a setting is a place that reflects the name, but then there is always more than meets the eye in this little town. The story is well-written, intelligently plotted, and fast-paced. It’s as gripping and entertaining as it is disturbing. Again, the kind of book you don’t open if you plan to get some sleep.

Publisher's Weekly

This creative, twisted, and relentlessly unsettling creepy house story draws deeply on the natural tensions of a stressful marriage and of parenting a teen while pulling its characters into profoundly strange territory. Gary is excited to move with his wife, Angela, and 14-year old son, Zach, into the old house he’s inherited from his reclusive Aunt Ester in a remote, dying town hours from their home in San Antonio, Tex. But the locals tell stories of an evil church that once stood on the property, and thumps from under the floorboards, disembodied voices, and disturbing erotic dreams make the house feel anything but welcoming. Zach focuses on repairing the classic truck in the barn and on his first romance, but the increasingly strange behavior of his parents becomes impossible to ignore. Johnson (Droplets) skillfully brings readers into Gary and Angela’s inner thoughts so that their flips between belief and disbelief, and the ways in which each reacts to the atypical behavior of the other while experiencing the incongruity of increasing compulsions, become terrifyingly relatable. This is an impressive new take on classic horror themes. (Starred Review)