Those Across the River – Christopher Buehlman, 2011.
Discontinuing an eccentric ritual proves to be a deadly mistake in this intelligent and evocative horror novel.
It is the height of the Great Depression. Former college professor, Frank Nichols, and his young wife Eudora relocate to a small town deep in the heart of Georgia.
Still recovering from the mental and physical traumas he sustained during WWI, Frank plans to use his time writing a book about an infamous Confederate forefather.
Problem is, the family plantation lies across the river. And nobody from town crosses the river. There are things best left alone on the other side.
Those Across the River is southern small-town horror at its best. You’re hooked with the jaw-dropping opening flash forward, and then reeled in with anticipation. Don’t worry: there isn’t long to wait.
Thanks to Buehlman’s exquisite sensory detail and ease of characterization, you just sink into this story: feeling the summer heat, the lassitude…and the underlying tensions of poverty and discrimination in this slow, rural town.
Buehlman crafts moments of rare beauty and spontaneous fun that make you smile, and then gut-punches you with abrupt and shocking violence. Joy exists cheek by jowl with horror.
The shades of wars – from the atrocities of WWI and the Civil War, to the barbarities committed by slave holders – shape the narrative and lead us to question the nature of humanity. What does it mean to be human? How do we lose our humanity? How do we retain it? Do we want to?
Those Across the River is first-rate horror: sensual and thought-provoking. This is a story that will stay in your head for a long time.