My heart was beating out of my chest. I yelled at my husband for interrupting me. I didn’t want to move even to feed my cats. I was on the edge of my seat, my breathing became heavier, and I was in a constant state of anticipation with what may be coming next.
Screw October. There's no need to wait for fall to have a good scare. The book I want to tell you about this week is The Ritual by British author Adam Neville.
It has been a while since I’ve read an adult oriented horror novel and I was not disappointed. The setting for The Ritual is the Scandinavian mountain wilderness and the premise is four old college buddies getting together for a reunion. Hutch, Dom, Phil, and Luke all have their various issues at home with careers, wives, kids, money – or lack thereof in Luke’s case. The goal of this trip is to spend quality time together and get away from their everyday life and the bustling, crowded city of London. Unfortunately for these four men, that is exactly what happens – to the extreme.
It can be difficult to describe what happens in a book without giving away its many surprises, but Neville does an amazing job of giving us a lot of information right up front to set the stage for what is about to happen to these men. There is an unexpected supernatural twist to the very real-life circumstance of being lost in untouched wilderness that doesn’t detract from what itself is a scary situation or make it seem less ‘real’. In fact, the way Neville writes about the supernatural elements in this book makes it seem much too close to home because this could happen to you.
I also really enjoyed the relationship between the men. Two are in shape and ready for this trip, and two did not prepare properly with the physical requirements of hiking in the mountains. Through their conversations and arguments, we learn a lot about their lives back in London, their personal struggles, and how they really feel about each other. Stress can bring out the best or the worse in people and we see all of that and more in their dynamic and how they each handle what is happening to them.
While reading, I was reminded of the movies The Blair Witch Project and Deliverance. The men are not alone out there, and sometimes the supernatural is the least of their troubled journey. People can be much more sadistic and evil.
I feel there is a lack of authenticity and real story-telling in many horror novels that I have read in the last couple of years so I was genuinely surprised and very happy with this one. It absolutely delivered what it promised. What I do know for sure is that I will probably never go camping again. Ever. From now on, my cats sprawled out on my bed is as close as I want to get to nature again.