Thursday, June 28, 2012

Those Across the River

When Frank Nichols and his fiancé, Eudora, came to the sleepy town of Whitbrow, Georgia, during the summer of 1935, they were hoping for a fresh start. Scorned in Chicago (Eudora was a married woman when Frank struck up an intimate relationship with her), both felt that moving to a place where no one knew them was a splendid idea. Why, there was even a nice house just waiting for them there: Frank had inherited his aunt’s estate and he intended to make it their home despite her wish—warning, really—that he sell it immediately and leave Whitbrow. Once they were all settled in, Eudora would teach at Whitbrow’s only school, Frank would write a history of his great-grandfather Lucien Savoyard’s plantation that lay in the woods across the river, and all would be well. Sounds lovely, right? Wrong. Things go awry soon enough, and they get downright horrific before it’s all said and done. Here’s a clue: when the townsfolk, quaint as they may be, have a rather odd tradition called the Chase that involves running flower-adorned pigs off into the woods during the waxing of the moon each month, and said pigs are never seen again, it begs the question: who’s on the receiving end of the sacrifice? Yes, boys and girls, there’s something in the woods, and it’s hungry. Frank gets a glimpse of the evil that lurks there when he encounters an eerily silent, stone-throwing boy with teeth that are filed sharp. Add to this stew the town’s decision to end the Chase (after all, no one can really afford to keep sending pigs off into the woods) and the boogeymen voice their dissent in a very, well, bloody way. I can’t say much more without giving the story away, but once it gets going, it’s an all-out creepfest, one that kept me turning the pages well into the wee hours of the morning. Kudos to author Christopher Buehlman for cranking up the tension while keeping the baddies under wraps until the Big Reveal. So if you’re looking for a good Southern gothic that reads like a cross between William Faulkner and Stephen King, Those Across the River is the one. Enjoy.

And stay out of the woods.

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