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  • Writer's pictureSelena | Beauty's Library

In the Hills Above the Gristmill Review

This was a book that I never expected to read.

Rating: 5/5

When a reverend of a small town in the Appalachian Mountains contacts Paisley to help shine some light on the mysterious mutilation of seven women in the woods outside of town, she is on the first flight out. The locals believe God has sent a creature to punish the town for its sins, and this has captured Paisley’s attention more than the preacher or the murders themselves.


This was a book that I never expected to read. We follow a vlogger, Paisley called to investigate a string of murders in a small town. At first, Paisley is thrown, this isn’t her usual forte. Her vlog focuses on the paranormal and supernatural not murder mystery. Though once she reads the stories surrounding the murders, she agrees to come. Who wouldn’t agree to try and expose Sasquatch murdering young girls?

From the start I adored Paisley. As a blogger myself, I was able to understand her view of her vlog being a new sense of community. Paisley was able to become a more confident person through her videos. Outside her vlog, she often felt shy, anxious, and lost that sense of confidence. Paisley was a great character to follow, she was witty, clever, and lively when in her “vlogger” mode.

Considering how the book ended, I’m excited to see her grow even more as a character. I’d love to see how Paisley and her vlog was affected by the events that took place in Grey Water Ridge. But that all depends on when the next book starts if it’ll start immediately after the events that occur in this book or if takes place months even years later. If the latter, then I hope we at least get a glimpse of what happened as a result of the end of this one.

This book flows so well. I was wary of a slow section but throughout the entirety of the book, I felt as if I was on the edge of my seat. Especially being Kalvin Ellis’s debut novel. Perfect! It hooked me from the first sentence. I’ve never been hooked by the first sentence before. Usually, it’s the first full-page or chapter. Sometimes it takes even longer to hook me. So kudos, Kalvin! This was one hell of a book! There were several moving parts but it wasn’t overwhelming. The short chapters definitely helped keep things moving. And since there were so many moving parts, my theory kept changing the more I got into it.

It hooked me from the first sentence. I’ve never been hooked by the first sentence before.

The core of my theory stayed the same, which was the “why.” Why the murders were happening. The who and how and the other details were what kept changing. In the end, my initial hunch was right. Even though my initial theory was right, this book didn’t come across as predictable. As I mentioned, there were so many moving parts. I constantly second-guessed myself. At one point I even went “Okay! I’m completely lost!” It kept me on my toes.

Even though my initial theory was right, this book didn’t come across as predictable.

I also loved the whole premise of this book. I mean how many books have you read that involves a Bigfoot? This was a first for me. Shortly after I started it, I was immediately going “Why is this not set in the Pacific Northwest?!” I even asked Kalvin Ellis this. He was honest and shared that in fact, it was originally set in the PNW. However, after he had a talk with a friend who shared with him stories of sightings in a small Appalachian town, he decided to move the story there.

I guess that’s fair. I accepted it, but I still would have loved to have had it here, in the PNW, where I’m from. At least, Paisley was from the PNW. In fact, I loved how she would call the beast “Bigfoot” and the one time she said it out loud it pissed off another character.

Page 108 ~ “Bigfoot is a name. Bigfoot is a moniker given to a specific Sasquatch in the American Pacific Northwest…”

Throughout the book, Paisley bounces between the names to describe the beast, Sasquatch and Bigfoot. But, when she says Bigfoot out loud. Oh no, how dare you! We do not see our sasquatch as one of your measly Bigfoots. Like really? Come on, man… So I guess moving the story outside of the PNW was worth it in the end. Though I’m sure I’m one of the few that would find that scene hilarious.

Overall, I thought this book was just great. This one reminded me so much of some of my previous reads. Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key, and Riley Sager’s Home Before Dark and Lock Every Door. These three all had a paranormal vibe in a similar manner to Kalvin Ellis’ book. Though if I’m honest, I think Kalvin Ellis’ book gives all those a run for its money with that ending. Read more for why below! But beware of spoilers! I think anyone who enjoys thrillers, horror, and a hint of paranormal and those who are a fan of Ruth Ware and Riley Sager would enjoy In the Hills Above the Gristmill. It earned a spot on my favorites shelf!


Warning! Light Spoilers! Nothing major :)

As I mentioned this book reminded me of several books I’ve read, these three books all had paranormal vibes same as In the Hills Above the Gristmill. Now when I say Kalvin Ellis’ book has stepped up beyond those three is by how it ends. Most books have a trend to start with a strong supernatural atmosphere but by the end, you learn that’s not at all the case, it’s in fact just twisted human beings. Those three books I mentioned all ended that same way so after those not really disappointing endings ~ I was just hoping for a more supernatural ending, the endings of those books were still great ~ I’ve since learned to stop hoping for those types of endings.

So going into Kalvin Ellis’ book, I knew it couldn’t possibly be Bigfoot. From the start, there was a major Bigfoot vibe as we see a girl killed by someone who has hair all over their body. Sounds like a beast, doesn’t it? I didn’t believe it. But that ending. I was shocked when the ending arrived and it truly ended with something that is a beast? What! We don’t know! *cue ghost noise*



Now I suggest you stop reading unless you want to know who the killer is.

Hint: It wasn’t Bigfoot ;)

Despite how the book ended, it was in fact not Bigfoot who was the killer. But actually the hot reverend, Hollis, who even at the beginning is described as “a ladykiller” ironically. Now my initial theory was the idea of Bigfoot being a hoax. That Hollis wanted to modernize the town and make it into a tourist town where you might see a “Sasquatch” the same one who murders young women who openly sin. Then, with the help of Paisley a paranormal vlogger, could put the town on the map. Throughout the entire book, I wanted to believe it wasn’t Hollis. I toed the line of believing it was or wasn’t him. I so wanted it to be anyone else. But then, Paisley just had to sleep with him. It was at that moment, I knew it was Hollis. It was exactly how it happened in Lock Every Door too, the main character slept with the twisted bastard. As soon as it happened I just went “No! No! Paisley why!”


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