(Full disclosure, while I have read a few of Craig Davidson’s books in the past, I am counting this book as a new author, since it removed enough from his other work to warrant such a distinction.)
Brimming with terror, both real and psychological, action and tons of blood and guts, I can’t think of a more pleasing horror novel I have read in the past few years than Nick Cutter’s Little Heaven. With proud echoes to the work of Stephen King and Peter Straub, this novel is a pure stick of genre dynamite that entrances the reader while also grossing them out and scaring the shit out of them. I have been circling the novels of Cutter for a few years, ever since his first novel The Troop, came out and seemed to light the world on fire, and if it is anything like this powder keg, I cannot wait to jump in. reading this, you can’t help but think of a more compact and less heady version of Stephen King’s It, with the monster of both books sharing a few characteristics in common: shape-shifting, cruel head games and a rather vague notion the reader gains as to what the nature of the beast really is. But all that would be pointless if the characters were not strong and empathetic, and here, you have a trio of astoundingly rendered wounded people (and one horrendously creepy human villain) who must rise above their flaws and slay the beast. At the start of the novel, some malformed beast snatches a little girl from her home. We learn that this little girl is the daughter of Micah Shughrue, a hard man with a glass eye. He knows who took her, and he knows who he has to contact in order to save her. In the same section, we are also introduced to Ebenezer Elkins, a black Englishman with a limp and Minerva Atwater, a woman with a shaved head and a grim death wish. The book switches timelines from the present day in 1980 and 1965, where the three formed a shaky bond after a failed shootout and what brought them deep into New Mexico’s woods and to the religious settlement of Little Heaven, ruled over by Amos Flesher, who bears more than a little resemblance to Jim Jones. Once a little boy goes missing and people start seeing strange creatures lurking in the woods, this book becomes a vice grip wrapped tightly around your throat. The book has many memorable scenes that I simply can’t shake, like how Minerva lost her brother and father in the same day and what Amos found his true sadistic nature in the orphanage he grew up in (which is called back to near the end in a brilliant way I had not seen done before), and its somewhat grim and haunting ending. This book is pure excitement: it entices, hypnotizes and strikes fear into unsuspecting readers. Whether you want to call him Nick Cutter or by his real name, this an author who knows what he is doing and is having fun while doing it, and in turn, so does everyone who reads his books.