Those across the River by Christopher Buehlman

ThoseWhen you are running away from a scandal, any other situation will do – even if it involves a family curse.

For Frank Nichols, this means abandoning a ruined academic career to take up residence in a house he inherits in Georgia, a decent farmhouse close by a large ominous woods and the town of Whitbrow.  His aunt willed the property to Frank with the stipulation that he sell it, but he disregards her wishes and moves there with his young wife Eudora, with the intent of writing a history about his great-grandfather, a Confederate general who owned much of the property now taken over by the woods.

Their neighbors in the town of Whitbrow seem harmless enough at first.  The setting is in 1935 with the depression in full swing.  Everyone there is largely dirt poor.  Therefore it’s pretty odd that the townsfolk send two full-grown pigs into the woods each month, in a strangely pagan ritual that the local preacher fully endorses.  These are woods that most are loath to venture into; the only exception is Martin Cranmer, a decided outsider who lives on  the edge of the woods, but even he has his hesitations.

Frank and Eudora persuade the town to end their monthly ritual.  Needless to say, this is a big mistake.

I won’t give up any more of the plot line.  I will say this – Buehlman writes a good yarn.  He captures the small town feel pretty well, including the social mores of the time.  Those Across the River is a horror tale, albeit one written with  literary flair.  There’s gore here for sure, but the story is the key thing, and the book works its wonders as a page turner.  The horror element is slow coming, but it comes and hits disturbingly.  This is one that’s best read during the daytime.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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