Near the Bone by Christina Henry

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Cryptid monster horror survival story

neartheboneNear the Bone is my second Christina Henry story and I seem to be on a roll because I enjoyed this one as much as the last one I read (The Ghost Tree).  

This is a psychological as well as slasher style horror story.  There are plenty of double meanings together with a setting that feels almost claustrophobic.

As the story begins we meet Mattie.  She’s doing the rounds, checking the traps for animals caught when she comes across a dead fox.  The fox hasn’t been eaten, just mauled and left, which is unusual in itself, added to that, the strange tracks that accompany the kill really give Mattie pause (paws or maybe even claws) for thought.  They look like bear prints, but on a massive scale.  Mattie doesn’t however have time to dwell, no lollygagging or gathering wool here, back to the cabin with haste before she receives punishment for her tardy behaviour.  She tells her husband of her grisly find and the two set out to follow the tracks – which mysteriously disappear.

Mattie has lived with William for as long as she can remember.  she sometimes has snatches of fleeting memories that elude her before she can grasp their meaning.  Meanwhile, William is always there, watching, controlling, and punishing her.  Mattie has learned to be quiet, to speak only when spoken to and to make herself almost unnoticeable.  The appearance of a second monster into her life spells real trouble but maybe also the possibility of escape.

I’m not going to go into the relationship between Mattie and Williams other than to say it is an abusive one.  Mentally and physically abusive (so keep that in mind).  Mattie is on the verge of becoming a shadow self, she’s beaten, raped and starved on a regular basis and yet, because of the length of time she has spent enduring such horrors she doesn’t realise just how terrible her situation really is.  She is William’s wife, she must obey him and be dutiful.  The appearance of a second monster on their isolated mountain really upsets the strange existence they have.  First, William becomes almost unhinged about the presence of an unusual creature sharing their space (with reason as will be eventually revealed).  Second, rumours of a mysterious critter brings strangers to the mountain in search of myths and legends.  Both of these act as catalysts to trigger memories in Mattie that leave her questioning the life she has accepted as normal.

Okay, I won’t really go into the plot with this one.  We have a creature capable of stalking unseen and unheard, the very forests themselves go quiet upon its approach.  It can remain unseen if it wishes and it’s tracks oftentimes disappear.  We have William, a monster himself by all accounts.  Armed and dangerous he resolves to rid the mountain of this newcomer and threat to his life.

So, the setting is great.  High on a mountain.  No roads.  Freezing cold temperatures.  This is not the sort of place that people seek out as a rule.  It really plays into the story giving it a ‘closed’ feel. Hemmed in for the most part by cliffs there is basically one route on or off the mountain.  No electricity, wi-fi or roads.  It’s your basic nightmare, particularly when there’s a huge creature running around outside and for the most part if feels like the characters run around in ever decreasing circles never gaining any momentum.

The characters.  Well, William is an absolute horror and almost invincible in the way that only truly bad characters in horror stories can be.  Mattie is a great character.  You really, I mean REALLY, feel for her.  The terror and desperation she feels on a regular basis – before three strangers stumble into her life and unwittingly try to help her – giving her not just new feelings about what is really happening but also massive guilt because they have now become her responsibility.

What I really liked about this is the tension that Henry creates.  The characters quite often stumble around in circles making outrageous mistakes, much akin to teenagers in a Halloween movie, and the only one that seems capable or really perceiving the threat is Mattie.  Strangely enough, Mattie and the creature almost seem to understand each other in the most unusual way.  I wont’ say more because I don’t want to give away spoilers.

The other thing that I really liked is that this is a look at the real monsters that are present in our everyday lives that we simply fail to see.  Of course, a huge hairy creature with long claws, a monumental roar and exceptional strength and speed, yes, now that’s a monster, but at the same time maybe it’s simply a creature also trying to survive on instinct.  

I really enjoyed this one.  I’m not going to say it didn’t have a few plot holes here or there or that at times it wasn’t frustrating in the way that slasher horrors can be annoying, but, it kept me pretty much glued to the page.  A strange combination of psychological thriller and creature feature horror.  Sleeping with the Enemy meets Predator meets ‘insert whatever horror you deem most approrpriate after reading’.  

To be clear, when I say I ‘enjoyed’ this – well, I was hooked, about Mattie’s story initially but then about the creature and the final outcome.  However, perhaps ‘enjoyed’ is the wrong word in some respects.  To be clear, there are strong themes present here plus a level of slasher horror that will make some readers grab for the nearest cushion to hide behind.  You have been warned.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars.

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Near the Bone by Christina Henry

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Near the Bone by Christina Henry:

nearthebone

A woman trapped on a mountain attempts to survive more than one kind of monster, in a dread-inducing horror novel from the national bestselling author Christina Henry.

Mattie can’t remember a time before she and William lived alone on a mountain together. She must never make him upset. But when Mattie discovers the mutilated body of a fox in the woods, she realizes that they’re not alone after all.

There’s something in the woods that wasn’t there before, something that makes strange cries in the night, something with sharp teeth and claws.

When three strangers appear on the mountaintop looking for the creature in the woods, Mattie knows their presence will anger William. Terrible things happen when William is angry.

Expected publication : April 2021