The Goatman

Wallace Martin

Publisher: Tesart818 Pages: 384 Price: (paperback) $14.95 ISBN: 9798989917501 Reviewed: June, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In Wallace Martin’s young adult novel, set in a small Georgia town in the 1960’s, a 14-year-old boy plays detective, believing the “Goatman” is behind a recent spate of murders.

The Goatman is a matter of controversy. Zeb Barton’s maid, Thelka, tells him she’s seen the man. He has a long beard, she says, raises goats, and was “messed up in World War II.” Zeb’s father tells Zeb the Goatman is nothing but a “fairy tale,” but Jeb’s friend Jake insists that “Wherever he goes, people disappear. Or die in awful ways.”

When the bodies of a woman and two boys are found dismembered, Zeb and Jake believe the Goatman is responsible, especially after finding hoof prints at two murder sites. And Zeb knows a bearded man in a wagon pulled by goats has been spotted.

Zeb’s father, Thelka, and groundskeeper Ike, try their best to keep the boys from poking around the murder sites. Meanwhile, the town’s bumbling chief of police and philandering sheriff have been haphazardly investigating.

Zeb is mesmerized by Wanda, the sheriff’s daughter who works at the courthouse. Smart, alluring, and as zealous as Zeb, she covertly discovers and shares pertinent information with him. Zeb is also grappling with his beloved brother’s disappearance and has since been plagued by disturbing voices.

The story offers plentiful plot twists and red herrings. And despite the lack of a clear-cut motive for the murders and the gruesome way victims were killed, the climax is unforeseen and thrilling.

Unfortunately, some of the explanatory backstory is told through lengthy dialogue that slows the narrative. Similarly distracting are side stories that, though compelling, are unrelated to the plot. Additionally, the narrative suffers from some puzzling sentences: “Zeb couldn’t understand why Hank had such an interest in either Wanda or himself, but Hank did.”

Still, Martin has masterfully created rich and memorable characters. Drawn in by the mystery, young readers will also learn about the atrocities of war.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
Duluth, Georgia
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