By Alison Buck
Reviewed by Sarah Jackson
There are certain elements that are staples for a stereotypical horror story. Whether it is a good dose of blood, a vampire in full costume, or a group of confused and scared people running about in the dark while someone (or something) stalks them, there are certain images that spring to mind when someone says the word horror. Of course, the genre is so much more than this, but sometimes it is fun to return to the old stereotypes. Alison Buck has done just this with her second novel.
Abiding Evil is an enjoyable, if somewhat predictable horror story about child abduction and murder on the fringes of a rural American community.
The story begins in the 1950s, when a group of children from the town are lured into the surrounding forest and murdered. When the murders stop, everyone believes the evil that plagued the forest has gone. Until the daughter of the owners of a hotel within the boundaries of the forest disappears in the 1970s.
Fast forward to the present day, and a group of old friends have arranged a reunion at this very same hotel, bringing along three young children and a sulky teenager. It's winter so the snow is knee deep, they're in the middle of nowhere, the phone lines are down, and when the children go missing, they find themselves rushing out into an unfamiliar landscape in the middle of the night, with torches and storm lanterns to find them and bring them back to a hotel that might no longer be safe.
The pace does flag a bit in the middle with the gathering of the friends at the hotel and the necessary introduction of each of the new characters, but the rest of the story moves at a brisk rate. In fact, as it moves towards the end, it becomes difficult to set down.
Probably the biggest downfall for this book is its often confusing and untidy writing style, with the narrative jumping between characters so often it is difficult to keep up with who is thinking and feeling what. It would have turned me off the story completely if Buck hadn't made up for it with her realistic and believable portrayal of her characters and the easy way in which she created tension through her admirable psychological insight.
The story plays excellently on a handful of fundamental human emotions and core fears. Love for our children, the fear of something terrible happening to them and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for their safety. And then there's the fear of being cut off from civilization with all of its modern conveniences, from mobile phones to GPS trackers. We rely so heavily on all of these things, the idea of being trapped without them is something often used in the horror genre, and something used to good effect in this story. Buck also calls on another, deeper fear. The idea of evil itself. She forces her protagonists to face the possibility of it, and in doing so, forces the reader to consider it also.
Abiding Evil is a satisfying read despite its flaws, and should appeal to those who enjoy a good thriller as well as horror.
Abiding Evil by Alison Buck. Trade paperback, 500pp, £9.99. Published by Alnpete Press and available from all good book shops or from Amazon
Website: - www.alnpetepress.co.uk
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