“That makes no sense,” was my first thought while ruminating over the phrase’s possible meaning, which doesn’t become clear until well into the book. But when it does, the payoff smacks you in the face–“Ah, so that’s it!”–and rolls through the final chapters of this ghost/monster/serial murder story. Yes, it’s all of those things creatively blended together.
The hero, Kyle, a Seattle-based Cree Indian from Sort-of America (Canada), along with his brother, sister, and their significant others, visits his grandfather and a family friend on the Cree reservation in the Canadian wilds. Not only has Kyle’s father gone missing while exploring the Devil’s Woods around the reservation, we learn people, mainly young women, have been vanishing from the area for more than a century. Now, with a title like The Devil’s Woods, you figure there’s a monster running around in there somewhere. And there is. (Oops! Was that a spoiler? I think it was. But if you didn’t see it coming …)
But what the creature is, how it operates, and, more specifically, why, makes the book compelling. Moreland paces the answers to leave the reader satisfied. He builds up to them by effectively developing Kyle (a tortured soul who sees ghosts), brother Eric (an arrogant lawyer [go figure] who openly flirts with other women while on vacation with his girlfriend Jessica), and Jessica (a sweet Aussie who’s conflicted over her feelings for Eric and someone else on the trip). Those are some notable characters but by no means all of them. The group of youngsters soon realizes they’re being stalked by something while they’re living on the dilapidated Cree reservation (Curse you! Alcohol and Westward Expansion)! I couldn’t help but thinking at times that Jason Voorhees stalked the forest. No, wait, maybe something from The Howling? Or Predator? Honestly, I had no idea what it was, and was pleasantly surprised when I finally understood what lurks in The Devil’s Woods.
Authors have been telling “There’s something scary in the woods” stories since man first chiseled bears onto cave walls. So, what new twist can it possibly be given after all of this time? Moreland slyly accomplishes it. My only gripe is that the book seemed slow at first, but once the action gets going, it’s a juggernaut, one you’ll want to finish reading despite it being 1 a.m. and having to work the next day.