When I bought this book, I had recently read an excellent short story in Black Static about a group of people hunting something nasty in the woods. With my tastes whetted, I eagerly downloaded this book as the synopsis seemed to paint it along the same lines. Although I enjoyed reading it, I didn’t finish this book and I’m not sure I’d pick it up again, even for closure.
The writing is visceral. The atmosphere is set from the first scene with the traditional death of the hapless wanderer in the woods. Dunbar’s writing drew me in to such an extent that I could almost feel the heat of the humid air on my face and in my lungs. I read on with morbid glee as the victim was hunted down, and then I was completely put off by the sexual overtones of the kill. It wasn’t blatant or excessive, but it was clear and it made me uncomfortable.
Still, I read on. In particular, I applauded Dunbar’s choice of disabled heroine. He never lets the reader forget her disability, yet his focus is always on how her disability has forced her to confront unpleasant truths throughout her life, which has equipped her for dealing with this new, nasty threat. While her disability makes her the most physically vulnerable character, she is clearly the mentally strongest one, and a true heroine. That said, I could have done with her being a little less self-pitying in her quieter moments!
The mother-son relationship in this novel is also non-traditional and a refreshing change from the mawkish sentimentality you sometimes get in horror novels. To stop you losing all sympathy with the mother, there is a blossoming romantic relationship between her and the ostensible hero which shows her softer side.
There are plenty of killings, all of which are suitably gruesome, if you like that sort of thing. Dunbar keeps you guessing about the creature’s true nature until the big reveal and then, I must confess, I put the book down. The creature and its killings drove the book and, while the characters and their relationships are interesting, I really didn’t connect with any them beyond wanting to know that they had dealt with the threat and were safe.
Throughout the book, Dunbar’s description of the Pines is gloriously oppressive, a perfect environment for the murders. If you enjoyed the gruesome aspects of novels such as the High Moor trilogy, check out this book. A good read, but not one for delicate stomachs or for those who are sensitive when it comes to adding sexual elements to murders.
Charlotte has had several short stories published in various formats from print to electronic and even audio. She has a novella out with Screaming Dreams publications, and a short story anthology due out this year. She is currently working on a novel and some radio productions.
Charlotte is thrilled to join the Ginger Nuts of Horror team, and is looking forward to indulging in two of her favourite things - reading new books and spouting opinions.
Originally from North Yorkshire, Charlotte now lives in Leeds and that's as far south as she's prepared to go. She is married and lives with a small child and a very fluffy cat. One of them is a small bundle of hurricane-level energy which tears up everything it passes; the other leaves hairballs wherever it sits. It is left up to the reader to decide which is which.