Those Across the River (2011) – Christopher Buehlman

This week’s Book Shelf brings me another horror novel, this one from a list of scary books that I hadn’t read yet.

Set after the end of the First World War, Orville Francis Nichols, and the young woman soon to be his wife, Eudora, move to a small town in Georgia, Whitbrow. A town that Nichols has a history with, his ancestors ran a plantation, and all the evil that that entails.

He plans to write a book on the history of the plantation, and the foulness his relations were responsible for, while Dora becomes a teacher in the languishing town. They attempt to settle in, try to make headway with the locals, but are troubled by some of their interactions, and a strange monthly ritual that sees the ailing, struggling town and its inhabitants sending valuable resources, pigs, across the river to a dark woods with a horrifying history.

What secrets lay beyond the river, Frank is driven to know, but he won’t be ready for the terrifying discovery, or his horrifying connection to it.

Things are going to get a lot worse for Frank, Dora and the town when the pigs stop being sent over the river.

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The book is wonderfully written with evocative passages and vibrant imagery.

I won’t lie the reveal of what is across the river ended up being a little disappointing, because it seems so very familiar, but Buehlman handles it aptly, and even evokes some truly frightening images even as we know what has to happen. Or you think you do.

I was pleasantly surprised and unnerved by the final pages of the book, and I can say that applies to the book’s entire narrative. As mentioned a lot of it seems very familiar, especially once the reveal happens, but its written so well, and so engaging, that you are more than willing to go along for the ride.

The true horror is the decay of the relationship between Frank and Dora, and the realization that they love each other through the horror, but is it enough?

Buehlman conjures a look at America after the war, the dying of a small town, the haunting of their past, and a powerful, sensual love affair.

The book is solid entertainment, it isn’t as scary as I had hoped it would be considering its position on the list I found it on, but I did love how it was written, and some of the moments truly got under my skin.

Pick it up and let me know what you think of it. Any recommendations for really scary reads?

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