Little Heaven, as described by Cutter (the pseudonym of Canadian writer Craig Davidson), is a big slice of hell. And this deeply disturbing story throws the reader right into the thick of it, along with a trio of mercenaries who encounter the supernatural within a Jonestown-like religious compound.
The story opens in 1980, when three professional killers—spiky bounty hunter Minerva Atwater, refined English mercenary Ebenezer Elkins, and reformed family man Micah Shughrue—are still damaged by the events of 15 years earlier. That story is told in flashback, as the ragtag team—who became allies after trying and failing to assassinate each other—is hired by Ellen Bellhaven to rescue her nephew from the compound. Getting there requires navigating a dark wood, where they find evidence of undead, demonic creatures. Things get much worse at Little Heaven, as children turn sadistic, the head preacher turns power-crazed, some of the congregants are graphically murdered, and ominous insects and vermin are everywhere. The three outlaws follow a trail to a looming black mountain, where they face the shape-shifting embodiment of all this evil. They survive, but 15 years later it returns to abduct Shughrue’s daughter, prompting a fateful rematch. The story is gripping and the language often poetic, and the three killers make oddly sympathetic heroes. But readers will need to maintain a high tolerance for grisly violence and unsettling imagery and be ready for a few sleepless nights.
The early sections have enough dark humor to give a false sense of security. But once the team reaches Little Heaven, the pace of the horror is unrelenting.