The Toll by Cherie Priest | Review

The Toll by Cherie Priest | ReviewThe Toll by Cherie Priest
Published by Tor Books on July 9, 2019
Genres: Horror
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: ALA
Buy on Amazon

From Cherie Priest, the author of The Family Plot and Maplecroft, comes The Toll, a tense, dark, and scary treat for modern fans of the traditionally strange and macabre.

State Road 177 runs along the Suwannee River, between Fargo, Georgia, and the Okefenokee Swamp. Drive that route from east to west, and you’ll cross six bridges. Take it from west to east, and you might find seven.

But you’d better hope not.

Titus and Melanie Bell leave their hotel in Fargo for a second honeymoon canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp. But shortly before they reach their destination, they draw up to a halt at the edge of a rickety bridge with old stone pilings, with room for only one car . . .

When, much later, a tow-truck arrives, the driver finds Titus lying in the middle of the road, but Melanie is nowhere to be found.

my thoughts:

Oh how I wanted to love The Toll.  I’m a big fan of the creepy and the strange and this one seemed like it would be right up my alley in those categories.  Sadly, everything about The Toll fell flat for me.

The Toll had serious potential and it started off quite strongly.  However, once I got past the introductory chapters, I had no clue what was going on.  Everything was extremely vague and at first I thought it might just be to draw the reader’s interest.  As I kept reading though, nothing became clearer.  I finished the book without ever feeling like I knew what was happening or why.  The tiny amount of backstory surrounding the creature at the bridge didn’t make any sense and lacked any sort of substance.  Then there was the lack of information about the town itself.  Readers were just expected to accept the presence of ghosts, witches, and seemingly possessed dolls without questioning it or how it came to be that way.

As for the characters, they were quite hard to like or understand.  The only two that were even remotely likable were the two little old ladies.  They were full of personality and spunk.  Their attitudes cracked me up more than once.  They also seemed to be the only two people who knew the truth about what was going on in their town.  They failed to share that information with anyone but they clearly knew more than they were telling.  The rest of the characters I truly could not have cared less about.  I didn’t care who lived or died.  Titus and Melanie set the story in motion but I never felt like their story was explained and I didn’t really care if Titus ever found Melanie.  The inhabitants of the town were the same way.  Pretty much everyone was hiding something and none of it was good.

Calling The Toll horror is a disservice to the horror genre.  There is nothing creepy, scary, or horrific about this story.  There is some slight mystery and the gothic label definitely fits it but don’t pick this one up if horror is what you’re looking for.

Overall, The Toll is one of those books with a misleading tagline and deceptively gorgeous cover.  Don’t let it fool you about what’s between the pages.  Cherie Priest has gotten some pretty great reviews so maybe give her other stuff a try and skip this one.

“You know, everything’s a ghost story, eventually.”

-Cherie Priest, The Toll

what others are saying about The Toll:

The BiblioSanctum’s review: “To tell the truth, even though I thought The Toll was a decent read, it’s hard not to feel slightly let down by some of its incongruencies and flaws, especially in light of how much I adored Priest’s last novel The Family Plot.”

Read by Dusk’s review: “Southern gothic horror only works when the setting is right and this book has got it down.”

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  1. Oh no! This one sounded so promising!

    My go-to is Stephen King, but I’ve really enjoyed Riley Sager’s novels. I also have liked Simone St. James’ last two novels that both had tinges of horror interspersed into their mysteries.

    1. I’m actually reading a Stephen King book right now and loving it! Riley Sager is a relatively new favorite of mine. So twisted! I will have to check out Simone St. James.