Publication Date: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Celadon Books
Genre: Horror, Thriller
This is a quiet yet insidious horror novel. We follow Paul in dual timelines when he is a teenage boy and him as an adult coming home for the first time in a couple of decades. As a teenager Paul starts high school with his best friend James and together they befriend Charlie and Billy and Paul himself befriends Jenny. James and Paul’s friendship with Charlie and Billy starts off in a horrific matter and that really sets the tone for the rest of their friendship. Adult Paul has come home because his Mom is in hospice care and he had no idea that she was even sick so he heads home to say goodbye to her. While he is back in Gritten, Paul is confronted by the trickling effects of the murder Charlie and Billy committed 25 years ago. Also propelling the present day storyline is Detective Amanda Beck (who had a minor cameo in Alex North’s debut book, The Whisper Man) as she is investigating a murder that is creepily similar to the one that Charlie and Billy committed. Hanging over everyone’s heads is the knowledge that Charlie disappeared after the murder 25 years ago and both Paula and Amanda are trying to figure out what part he plays in the current murder, if any.
If that plot sounds convoluted its because it is. There is a lot jam packed in this book which was nice because there was always something happening but on the other hand, not everything was perfectly pulled off. The creepiest aspect of this story was the lucid dreaming that Charlie teaches to the other boys and I was horrified to find out this is a real thing. Also going along with the lucid dreaming is a Slenderman type monster that is waiting in the dream world for the boys. The murders that take place in this book are graphic and dark so beware of that before starting this book.
There are a few twists in this story that are possible to see coming but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all. I do wish that North had either expanded on some ideas/plot lines or had edited some out because there was just too much happening for the length of this book. I found it hard to fully connect to the characters because we weren’t allowed a lot of time to truly build that connection. North had a lot of great ideas and I now appreciate why Stephen King writes such big tomes because to create the right horror atmosphere along with characters you are invested in takes more time than just over 300 pages.
If you are interested in a crossover thriller and horror book then pick this one up. I wouldn’t necessarily say that if you read The Whisper Man that you should read this one because they have very different tones. However, if the idea of lucid dreaming sounds good to you then this is one that you should pick up. I am very intrigued by Alex North and I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next.