Filler content with evil abiding

This review appeared on the old TTA Press website on the 24th of October 2007:-

Alnpete paperback, 500pp, £9.99

So, a new publisher and a new writer, but to some extent the same old, same old, with a story straight out of the backwoods horror school of Hollywood fright flicks, plus grace notes courtesy of Richard Laymon and Jeepers Creepers.

For openers we get a hundred pages of scene setting, the scene in question being isolated woodland in America where a monster preys on young children, appearing at intervals of twenty years. Skip forward to the present day and cut to the chase, with four assorted couples stranded in a snowbound hotel deep in the aforesaid forest. And then the children disappear, leaving the adults to mount a rescue operation and piece together a terrible story of evil stretching back over the generations.

This is all pretty much standard fare, a book that I enjoyed reading in a pass the time sort of way, but which never really seemed to come alive, partly because of the predictability of the plot (we even get the ‘surprise’ ending where the monster comes back to life, which is okay if not obligatory in a horror flick, but after 500 pages I expected something a bit more in the way of closure), the convenience of having a ghost put in an appearance and the occasional flatness of Buck’s writing (she seems to shun metaphors and similes, but doesn’t quite have the wherewithal to do without), which is workmanlike rather than enjoyable per se.

On the plus side, the back story is intriguing, with newspaper clippings and official documents put to good effect, and some credible motivation is supplied for the monster’s behaviour, even if we’re never really quite sure how he became a supernatural being in the first place. The woodland setting is handled tolerably with a genuine sense of tension as the adults scour this snow girt landscape for their missing children, while Buck is at her best in characterisation. There is singer Annie with her husband Bill and their young kids Lisa and Mikey, acerbic lawyer Neil and his garrulous partner Dave, drunken Phil with his young partner Lou and their baby, Jeff and Rita with rebellious teen Emma, each of these people given individual traits and distinctive voices, with obnoxious Neil as the one you love to hate and want to see get his comeuppance; a man who could put the cause of gay liberation back fifty years without even trying.

It’s formulaic stuff certainly, but well executed and an undemanding read when you have time to pass, with slightly more to recommend it than not.




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