Gated by Matt Drabble is a classic horror yarn inspired by such creepy tales as Stepford Wives and The Wicker Man. Set in a paradise of a gated community called Eden situated somewhere in the middle of nowhere on the East Coast, Emily and her husband Michael, a horror novel writer of some note, move from the UK to start again when a freak car accident kills their unborn baby. Everyone is so very nice in Eden, too nice, and it starts to give Michael the heebee geebees. When their neighbors reveal themselves to be less than perfect, and Michael is having strange blackouts in the forest surrounding the urbanization, it’s time for the couple to start digging deeper and find out the truth, because now Emily is pregnant again, and things are starting to look a bit off-balance…
Drabble writes straightforward, page-flipping horror in the style of mass-market favorites from the likes of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. You’re not going to get much deeper than that, and Drabble keeps it there purposefully to drive the story along. Nothing drags, and there’s no real profound emotional detail, but there is enough to keep attention focused on character motivation and the reader engaged. We’re swept along with the necessary points, and it’s entertaining, undemanding reading for enjoyment. The idea of a spooky gated community should seriously be the next American Horror Story setting!
When we picked Gated as the winner of our Full Moon Awards Horror Prize, it was this all-consuming rolling energy that won us over. Unlike many horrors, Drabble doesn’t try and make his readers uneasy and sickened; he wants the kind of horror that comes from thrills and spills, and it’s pure fun. You root for the characters, but never feel like it’s getting depressing or overly dark as many writers of this genre insist on doing. This is the kind of book that would make a really good traditional horror flick, and dispenses its scares in good regular measure. Murder, supernatural beings, black magic, curses and even some axe-action lines up the gallons of blood and gore without going into that corner of uneasy that basically most readers want to stay out of. Instead the writing keeps you guessing, and keeps tight on a small ensemble of characters who remain rounded and foibled throughout the book.
Gated is probably suitable for a young adult age group upwards, and offers a number of relatable personalities to root for. Although the story is a pretty generic idea, and falls on the usual tropes, somehow it’s fine. It doesn’t really matter, because the book has a sense of humor and honors these tropes, and that tongue-in-cheek approach is what is missing from so many books on the market in this genre. Thoroughly recommended for anyone looking for a traditional-style scary read, and luckily for those who finish this one, Gated II is on the horizon, as well as a number of other novels by the author.