Author: J H Moncrieff Publisher: Flame Tree Press Page count: 288pp release date: 24th Oct 2019 Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
I’ve already mentioned that I love the work Flame Tree Press are doing to promote genre, and horror in particular.So, when I was approved for this ARC for Those Who Come Before – and by a writer I’d not read before, I was delighted and excited to read on. The novel starts with an argument – and our narrator, Reese, surmising that his girlfriend Jess has a tendency to make “everything into a catastrophe of epic proportions lately.” Jess is angry because he is twenty minutes late for picking her up for a camping trip in his truck, and to hook up with another couple in their circle of friends; Kira and Dan.
Yep. A camping trip; a wonderful, sometimes cliched staple of horror stories but always makes me tingle with anticipatory joy. Moncrieff does a great job of setting up the characters, especially making Reese look like the bit of a thoughtless dick that he appears to be. But, appearances can be deceiving, and this novel charts Reese’s growth as a character. However, his main concern when we meet him, is that the sex is hot with Jess, but he’s going to dump her after the trip, cause it’s losing it’s spark. And he seems to like Kira. After a terse drive, the group arrive at Strong Lake – to find it closed for the season. It doesn’t stop Reese from breaking in and choosing a spot. The only issue is the wood box is locked.
Thank God, there’s one tree that might burn well enough – a large black tree, just waiting to be touched. To be broken.
The point of view quickly changes to that of Detective Maria Greyeyes – chapters changing from POV throughout the book – who is interviewing Reese after the death of his three friends. Like Reese, we don’t know what happened but as the narrative weaves, we begin to find out more about the camp site, the blackened tree and something at the site that watches them, telling them “you’re not welcome here.”
The visceral descriptions, and Reese’s growing fear and panic are very well written, turning a cliche into something genuine. The ‘killer’ is revealed incrementally like pieces of a larger jigsaw puzzle, which also seem connected to Native American mythology and spirituality. It’s made clear through the detective’s chapters, that she has more than just the one battle to face on a daily basis; avoiding everyday sexism and racial slurs. Her friendship with Crazyhorse is a gentle reminder of her origins, and her encounters with Chief Kinew teach her so much more about what it means to be Native American and a woman who is also police.
With the ghost of the Donner party and hints of Croatoan/Roanoke whispering through the story, this book speaks to heritage and origins, so there is beauty with the violence. More of a ‘whatdunnit’ than a whodunnit, the crumb trail that leads to the outcome, reveal as much about modern and historical American society, as the actual denouement itself.
White privilege exists.
It is real.
And Reese learns from his experiences that he too, is guilty of treating others without respect.
This is a great book. The horror elements are genuinely scary at times, and very bloody, intermingled with a great back story, believable characters and a real sense of identity. A genuine five star horror novel. I’ll be reading J H Moncrieff again.
Release date: October 2019 Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
I first found Hunter Shea in Forbidden Planet, with a pulpy monster cover and the title ‘Montauk Monster’. I knew nothing about the book or the author; I just knew I had to have it – and now I’m addicted to Hunter’s words.
The blood, the violence, the humour, the old school monster mystery (minus Scooby) and the Jaws/Sharknado/Arachnophobia vibe of his work. I’ve also lately discovered that I love the horror work that Flame Tree Press puts out – so combine the two – and you have his latest novel ‘Slash’. A modern twist and loving yet original homage to 80s Slasher movies, that in fact opens with quotes from three of the best. Ashley (Ash) and Todd have a comfortable home, moved into a year ago and an ugly, damaged rescue cat, but Ash is drowning in memories of the past, nightmares and her own tears. She bears scars of the past inside and out; scars from the killer and sharp glass. She suffers from such a severe form of PTSD, her memory of that night coming through in only patches, so that no one really knows what the Slasher looks like.
When Todd turns up from work one evening with a nice Cabernet, he finds her hanging in the basement – no longer able to cope with her anxiety, fear of the dark and survivors guilt. Five years ago, her best friend Sheri had been slaughtered by a serial killer, along with other college friends by The ‘Wraith’ an unknown presumed escaped serial killer, at the local Hayden Resort.
After Ash’s suicide, that’s when the story really begins. She’s a constant ghost hovering behind the scenes, as we the reader, and Todd, return to Hayden Resort to discover what really happened that night. Todd’s anger is palpable, especially when his mixed race relationship is blamed by some, for making Ash a notable victim to start with. Shea demonstrates an in depth knowledge of the typical slasher horror tropes and uses them to his advantage.
This is the second book of his that I’ve read, but he knows how to deliver good horror with surprises and emotion, never mind blood.