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Those Across the River

Those Across the River
Writer and poet Christopher Buehlman (whose alter ego is the hilarious Christophe the Insultor) turns in a hair-raising Southern gothic horror tale of ancient curses and undying evil as his debut novel. Something evil lurks in Megiddo Wood near the little town of Whitbrow, Georgia, dating from the days of the wealthy but sadistic Lucien Savoyard and his murder at the hands of his plantation slaves seventy years ago, shortly after the end of the Civil War.

I got a signed copy of this for Christmas and tore through it in about four hours. Literally could not put it down: I ate dinner with a fork in one hand and the book in the other. I wanted to go slower to savor the writing -- as lush as Southern kudzu and as intense as its humid heat -- but I couldn't control my desperate need to find out WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?!? The tension begins almost on the first page, and gets cranked tighter and tighter as the body count rises and the creeping horrors loom ever closer. There were plenty of twists and turns, and I'm glad I didn't know anything about it beforehand. Do yourself a favor and don't read anything with spoilers in it -- it packs more punch if you're as confused and terrified as the poor doomed residents of Whitbrow.

Buehlman's poetry is pretty good, too. He won the Bridport Prize for "Wanton," which I liked very much (reminiscent of "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" or Waking the Moon) but "Bear Attacks" (written from the bear's point of view) is superb, both frightening and melancholy:

...come to the park tomorrow (on foot, please),
and armed with only a camera,
which I will not damage
so that all of them will know my face
and know that my god is greater than theirs,
who will not come when they scream for him...

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