Paradise, Maine is a location that sounds too good to be true. A small town with picturesque views, friendly locals, and beautiful woodland. Oh, and a sadistic murderous beast that stalks said woodland.
You see, the seemingly friendly townsfolk know all too well about The Watcher, this strange beast-cannibal-human-monster thing in the woods. When out-of-towners visit their little community, the locals know exactly what’s going to happen to them, and do their very best to assist in any way they can. Of course they do, as the helpless visitors haven’t exactly arrived there by coincidence.
Enter Darren and Vanis, a couple who have had their problems. Getting away for a break in the country sounds like bliss and just what their relationship needs. Surely this time away will heal the bitterness and trust issues once and for all.
But, of course, this is a horror novel.
We’re introduced to The Watcher straight away. This thing lives to kill. And eat. And rape, a bit. But it’s not just all of that, the creature loves the thrill of the chase. The fear and desperation in its victims is almost as satisfying as watching them die. And this latest couple seem to fit the bill perfectly.
The cabin Darren and Vanis travel to is perfect. Isolation, gorgeous surroundings, each other. Marvellous. But before long they come face-to-mangled face with The Watcher.
Small town horror stories creep me out. It’s the sense of isolation and the everyone’s-in-on-it vibe that get to me. And this one was no different. Knowing what horrors await these two makes the story all the more disturbing. Instead of the creeping dread of what ‘might’ happen to them, you’re thrown head-first into the gorefest. And it certainly lives up to it.
I won’t spoil it but they soon become The Watcher’s play things. Another guy, Zebulun, just happens to be out in the woods, too. His appearance wasn’t anticipated by the beast, so it delights in being able to spill the blood of a third victim.
This story isn’t just a simple survival in the woods horror, though. We are treated to the lives of some of the locals, too. Some have grown to hate the existence of The Watcher and try to leave, the guilt eating away at them daily. Others fear the creature and know that anything of the sort is simply out of the question.
It’s not only in the woods that people die. This town certainly doesn’t live up to its name.
The pacing is quick, giving no let up to the action. There are moments when the couple’s histories are mentioned, but they only add to the tension, bringing out their humanity where The Watcher sees them as less than human; pieces of meat for him to kill and feed upon.
There was also a creepy little twist to this one, one I didn’t see coming but when it was revealed it really made sense. It certainly darkened an already pretty blackened tale.
This was my first foray into the mind of Jackson R. Thomas and it is a brutal place to visit. I am planning to take another trip there very soon.
Categories: book review