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Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

BOTTOM LINE: One of the more terrifying books I read in the past year and so worth it.

Genre: Fiction; Horror
Publication Date: 10 January 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“An all-new epic tale of terror and redemption set in the hinterlands of midcentury New Mexico from the acclaimed author of The Troop—which Stephen King raved ‘scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down…old-school horror at its best.’

From electrifying horror author Nick Cutter comes a haunting new novel, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy‘s Blood Meridian and Stephen King’s It, in which a trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven. Shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. Stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust grips the settlement. The escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral towards madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. The remaining occupants are forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is now marshaling its powers…and it wants them all.”

My Thoughts: After three novels, it is safe to say that Nick Cutter writes terrifying stories. He knows just what will raise your heart rate and keep you awake at night. Moreover, he never eases off the tension to allow you to catch your breath. Little Heaven, like each of his other novels, involves a barrage of disturbing imagery, a cast of multi-faceted characters, a vicious villain, and plenty of gray area that makes you question the existence of good and evil.

The use of three mercenaries as well as a cult leader as his narrators and main characters is a wonderful example of his ability to blur the lines between good and evil. Micah, Minerva, and Ebenezer are by no means innocents. They kill others for money after all, without mercy and without questioning whether their target deserves to be killed. Yet when we first meet them, they are mere shells, haunted by their past deeds and adventures. Their obvious pain and suffering immediately triggers your sympathy and downplays any disgust you might feel for their occupations. Mr. Cutter then switches the story to the past to test that sympathy by allowing you to see them in their prime. Their callousness is disturbing, but there is a lightheartedness to their banter that overshadows that. They are competitors after all, while their profession does not lend itself to collaboration. This leads to some of the few moments of humor that exist within the novel.

Because our three heroes are not necessarily good people, Mr. Cutter ups the ante on his Big Bad to make sure that there is no doubt about the evilness of the story’s villain. Everything about the Big Bad, from his sentries to his Pied Piper to his residence near the Black Rock are the things of nightmares. The Black Rock oozes malevolence, while his familiars are the monsters that hide under your bed and in your closet. To compound the horror, Mr. Cutter does not shy away from gore and creates scenes guaranteed to turn your stomach.

The result is a novel that is frightening enough for even the most hardened of horror fans. Little Heaven takes you to the deepest, darkest recesses of evil and presents such scenes of terror and gore that make you question your own sanity. One can easily overlook the few weaknesses that exist within the story – its tendency to feel rushed, its lack of definitive answers – because the tension and fear are so palpable. With Little Heaven, Mr. Cutter proves that he is a worthy addition to the horror novel kings.

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