A brief debut tale of murders in a Dublin forest.
This novel’s setting is truly creepy: a forest full of “the mentally ill,” in Dublin on Halloween in 1892. Although the danger of the forest is apparently legendary, people keep wandering in, only to be brutally murdered. The story has a slasher-movie feel, as very little connects the different murders; instead, each are like set pieces at a haunted hayride—drive past, and then they’re gone. It starts with the story of a young boy who messes with a killer’s scarecrow and ends with the story of another character who finally manages to fight back. However, the novel makes little effort to set scenes or build dramatic momentum. Scenes frequently go by without any dialogue, and it may be hard for readers to tell where characters are in the physical landscape. The action also often pauses at the start of many sections to accommodate a flashback and relate a character’s backstory. One character, Scott McArthur, is described as having “violent tendencies toward his family,” but readers aren’t shown that through McArthur’s treatment of his son. McArthur’s mental instability was caused by stepping on a mummy’s grave, which is described plainly, twice: “it rose from beyond its grave and attacked him” and then, a few sentences later, “a mummy suddenly arose from beyond the dead and attacked him.” However, readers aren’t told why he was there, who he was with, or how he ended up in that particular graveyard. Indeed, many characters are killed off within a few pages of their introduction, before readers could possibly become attached to them at all. Overall, this story has a promisingly frightening setup, but it doesn’t coalesce into a memorable story.
An unfocused horror tale that never quite moves beyond being merely a collection of gory scenes.