Skip to main content

The Chill


The Chill

THE CHILL is fully deserving of every word of the pre-publication buzz that it has received. Part of the advance accolades is due to the well-known thriller writer who is using the nom de plume of Scott Carson. The reason for this (to my understanding) is the utilization of supernatural/horror elements that are absent from this established author’s customary work. Regardless of the authorship, here we have a memorable, haunting feast of supernatural literature.

The book is set in October 2020 in Torrance County, an otherwise nondescript section of the Catskills that serves as the location for the Chilewaukee reservoir, which the local residents call “The Chill.” The Chill was created by flooding the town of Galesburg, the remnants of which can be seen in an area known as the Dead Waters. Most of the story takes place in the vicinity of the reservoir, with the exception of a few noteworthy and important vignettes occurring in New York City. The overriding concern of the entire tale, though, is water. Steve Ellsworth, the Torrance County sheriff, lives above the dam --- never below --- with his son Aaron, who, we are told, is the best swimmer that Torrance County has ever produced.

"...a memorable, haunting feast of supernatural literature.... THE CHILL is an extremely effective and --- dare I say it? --- chilling work."

We meet the Ellsworths at a time when Aaron once again has squandered his skills and a promising future, and his father must deal with it in a professional capacity. When Aaron attempts to redeem himself in his own mind by challenging the waters, he becomes part of a series of events set in motion decades before by the citizens of Galesburg, who lost their city but are determined to exact their revenge upon New York City. In that locale, a construction worker named DeShawn Ryan --- a sandhog, in the vernacular --- is working on Water Tunnel Number 3, which will serve to supply New York with water, while Tunnels 1 and 2 are being examined and repaired. Ryan has a tie to Torrance County and Galesburg through his daughter, Gillian Mathers, whose ancestors were born there. Gillian is a law enforcement officer with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Police and specifically requested the assignment to the Torrance County area, guarding the upstate reservoirs.

For years, the Chill has been the beneficiary of deferred maintenance, a fact that those in authority are aware of but have been kicking down the road for far too long. It is only when the area is subjected to several days of torrential rain that the dire potential for a structural disaster becomes a stark reality as the former residents of Galesburg --- with some assistance on this side of the veil --- execute the plan to enact their vengeance on the great city and its people downriver in a most ironic way. Only Gillian and Aaron can prevent it, but they really don't have a grasp on what they are dealing with, even as assistance from an unexpected source approaches. It may be too little and too late.

THE CHILL is an extremely effective and --- dare I say it? --- chilling work. We all depend on water while giving little thought to its availability unless we turn on the faucet and get nothing but a quiet sigh, for whatever reason. A personal note: I have a reservoir a couple of blocks away from me. I live above it, naturally. Before I read this book, I rarely thought about it unless I was driving past it. Now I lie awake at night, imagining that I hear the water as it cascades down a lock. That’s my idea of powerful writing, and you can find it on every terrifying, perfectly paced page of THE CHILL, a ghost story for our time.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 28, 2020

The Chill
by Scott Carson