Considering our current global situation, I decided that isolation would be a perfect opportunity to delve into some marathon reading. Every cloud!
I was in the mood for a horror whilst searching for my perfect isolation read (possibly not the best genre to boost one’s mood but each to their own!) I was already familiar with Coates as I have previously read ‘The Haunting of Ashburn House’ which I enjoyed but I was mostly intrigued by the blurb.
A hiker goes missing after trekking through the dense forest of Ashlough on a journey of self discovery. Her brother, certain that something is wrong when no one hears from her, follows her path in a quest to try and find out what happened to her. Things become eerie when the hiker’s camera washes up down-river with bizarre photos captured on the memory.
The outline of the story hints within the first few chapters at a possible predator similar to Bigfoot. I have always been fascinated by urban legends and I enjoy seeing how various authors portray these figures within fiction. I was definitely not disappointed with this engaging, absorbing story and the intricate characters created by Coates. I found myself gripped within the first chapter and desperate to know just what was happening within the forest!
“Eileen couldn’t hear the bird chatter anymore, She heard only her own ragged breathing, rough like a saw through wood and her own galloping heart” (Chapter 1: Page 17.) This opening line had me gripped and I was so pleased to see that the quality of the language was maintained throughout the whole book. There were parts that had me grimacing and some which really got me choked up due to the raw emotion effortlessly conveyed by Coates.
The story centres around several main characters, therefore the story switches perspectives throughout to give all perspectives of the story as it unfolds. I always find it a good indicator about the quality of a writer by seeing how well they can do this. For me, I can lose pace and interest in a book if there is excessive, rapid switching of perspectives and it can be hard to keep up when there are lots of characters to follow. There was no uncertainty with each perspective and Coates carefully crafts each person with their own personality and back story which pulls the reader in even more.
The main police officer tasked with the job of finding Eileen is Carla. Her dialogues and emotions alone are enough to keep a reader turning the pages as she is such an interesting, intriguing character. Disillusioned with her job and desperately just trying to make it through every day, she is the epitome of many career women who struggle to balance professional and personal life. I also liked the way this was very relevant to most public service jobs and these sort of opinions are often discussed in the media.
Additional characters are the brother and friends of Eileen, who show that no task is too difficult when it comes to demonstrating the loyalty of friends. Their terror as they try to navigate their way through the forest is palpable, especially when it is clear that they are being stalked and their lives are at stake. Many times, you feel their conflicting emotions when they are presented with an opportunity to turn back or continue their search for Eileen, even at times when it seems impossible and hopeless.
Coates manages to juxtapose beautifully the dark danger of the group’s situation and the stunning nature of the forest they find themselves in.
“The forest’s atmosphere changed palpably as day began to fade. The birds chattered, enjoying their final hour of freedom and even the trees seemed to be straining to catch the last of the dying light” – (Chapter 34, page 215)
Although the threat of the forest is successfully constructed even without the imposing predator lurking at the heels of the group, the menacing figure chills you to the bone; “As he stepped around the tree, he was confronted by something that seemed to have crawled out of his nightmares. It was immense. Seven feet at least. Luminous eyes glittered out from a twisted, shadowed inhuman face” (Chapter 14 – page 82)
Finally, as tension is built throughout the story and events unfold, the reader is not prepared for the twist which is revealed at the end and the eventual conclusion. I am pretty good with predicting endings and twists but this had eluded me!
If you are looking for something to distract you from the horrors within our own world right now and you want a story that will keep you reading until gone 2am (much to my partner’s frustration!) then look no further than ‘Hunted’ by Darcy Coates. Sensational!