Three 20-somethings’ holiday in Bulgaria becomes a vacation from hell in Dash’s (The Evil and the Pure, 2014) horror novel.
Dominic and his best friend, Curran, are easy travelers to please—get them drunk and they’re happy. Martini, Dominic’s girlfriend, has tolerated their behavior long enough and wants more from her holiday experience. Taking control of the itinerary, she surprises the boys with a culture- and nature-filled road trip through Bulgaria. Martini’s excitement about the trip isn’t reciprocated, however. From the outset, the trio’s obvious lack of chemistry is grating, which is only exacerbated by the tired roles they inhabit: nagging girlfriend; combative, crude best friend; and apathetic boyfriend. With each new town they visit, Martini and Dominic’s relationship inches toward demise, mostly because of Curran and his insatiable attraction to the bar scene. Lurking in the Bulgarian shadows, however, is a far greater, more intriguing threat. When Dominic and Curran ditch Martini (yet again) to hang out with a group of local teenagers, the night leads them to a secret lake in the woods where copious drinking, skinny-dipping, and flirtation abound. That is, until Dominic and Curran are beaten and left naked after Curran flirts with the wrong girl. When Dominic wakes the next afternoon, he’s badly sunburned and alone—and then, at his weakest moment, a lurking beast arrives. Dominic’s ensuing struggle to find his friend, stay alive, and defeat the creature is vivid and unrelenting, and Dash fully realizes the unnamed monster in all of its grotesque, imposing physicality. During this section, the novel offers captivating tension and brutal, gory fun. If only it ended there, because after the exhilarating hide-and-seek contest between man and beast, the rest of the story feels flat and contrived. It isn’t helped by references to the silliness of horror-movie archetypes, which only weaken the horror tropes littered throughout the story.
A sometimes-engaging horror story with a familiar, predictable conclusion.