My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I first came across Bill Schweigart a few months ago when I spotted the Beast of Barcroft on NetGalley and couldn’t resist. That was the book that restored my love of horror and that love continues in Northwoods, the second in the series. Bill Schweigart really knows how to write an exciting and surprising narrative and this book takes horror to a whole new level.
Some borders should never be crossed. From the author of The Beast of Barcroft comes a waking nightmare of a horror novel that’s sure to thrill readers of Stephen King and Bentley Little.
Ex–Delta Force Davis Holland, now an agent for the Customs and Border Protection, has seen it all. But nothing in his experience has prepared him for what he and the local sheriff find one freezing night in the Minnesota woods.
Investigating reports of an illegal border crossing, the two men stumble across a blood-drenched scene of mass murder, barely escaping with their lives . . . and a single clue to the mayhem: a small wooden chest placed at the heart of the massacre. Something deadly has entered Holland’s territory, crossing the border from nightmare into reality.
When news of the atrocity reaches wealthy cryptozoologist Richard Severance, he sends a three-person team north to investigate. Not long ago, the members of that team—Ben McKelvie, Lindsay Clark, and Alex Standingcloud—were nearly killed by a vengeful shapeshifter. Now they are walking wounded, haunted by gruesome memories that make normal life impossible. But there is nothing normal about the horror that awaits in the Northwoods.
One of the things I love most about Bill Schweigart is that for me he is a bit of an unknown quantity. Having read only one of his books I don’t have a feel yet for how far he’ll go or what he will do. No character is safe and pretty much anything can and will happen.
Northwoods starts in a similar way to the previous book in the series The Beast of Barcroft with the introduction of a new character, Davis Holland, and something mysterious lurking in the woods.
However while the Best of Barcroft was more of a creature feature with a lot of mystery over what if anything is in the woods it’s clear from the start that this time it’s something from myth and legend. No real creature could be responsible for the level of carnage, so it’s more of a case of working out what creature is responsible and how to stop it.
There are a lot of local legends in the area and tales of missing persons going back years. A lot of these legends and stories are set out in this story and that makes for some fascinating reading. I have no idea if any of these stories are based on real legends but I imagine that they are.
While new character Davis Holland brings a different dimension to the team with his military experience I have to admit I still really love returning characters Ben and Lindsay. Ben is the everyman character with no special skills or knowledge who is thrown into exceptional circumstances. He’s probably more lucky a lot of the time than skilled and seems to have a natural talent for saying the wrong thing which brings a lot of humour to the story.
He also has the most incredible crush on Lindsay which considering he’s the wrong sex to be her type makes for an interesting dynamic between the two. Lindsay is definitely the more knowledgeable and practical of the two so has the upper hand as far as the relationship goes. They flirt a bit, argue a lot, he’s overprotective and she get’s frustrated with him but they do depend on each other. Their relationship changes and develops over the course of this book and it comes under threat a few times which was kind of worrying as they are definitely one of my favourite partnerships.
This story is a lot bigger and a lot more gruesome and violent than the Beast of Barcroft. The author has definitely stepped it up in terms of carnage and while I prefer slightly subtler horror story rather than a lot of blood and gore there are still some very creepy moments. What makes it even better is the unpredictability. No character is safe in this series and anyone could be lost at the most unexpected moment. There was one moment in particular which came out of nowhere and left me completely stunned. One of those “oh my god, he can’t do that can he?” type moments.
For the most part the pacing is spot on and while there are a couple of bits which are a little slow, the author does a fantastic job of building up the tension to a truly immense conclusion.
It’s not a perfect book but I would definitely rate Bill Schweigart as one of my favourite horror authors at the moment. I’m looking forward to more in the series to see where it goes next.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.