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The Woods are Dark

Novel by Richard Laymon (USA) 1983.

In the woods of the title are the Killing Trees, upon which the local townspeople handcuff visitors whom they have kidnapped, to await the arrival of the Krulls, semi-human cannibal monsters. Neala and Sherri are kidnapped from Terk's Diner, the Dills family from the Sunshine Motor Inn, but all are to suffer the normal fate. But one of the 'delivery men' falls for Neala and returns after dark to rescue her. The rest of the townspeople find out and the woods become home to a chase to end all chases, with the Krulls complicating everything.

Described by none other than Dean R. Koontz as "gruesome, frenetic, bloodcurdling"; the latter description is appropriate, but the former two are perfect. It is one of the fastest reads in the horror genre, somewhere above breakneck, more like blitzkreig; with good dialogue and a very rough edge. The author has a penchant for the sadistic: like The Cellar and some of his later work, it sometimes seems that he is consciously trying to put as much taboo material as possible into his books, making it an almost cert for the current youth market. Another common theme seems to be in his characterisation: little girls are mature and strong, their parents helpless and weak. Originally heavily revised at the whim of an editor and with many noticeable proofing errors, the 'authorised' edition is the current Headline edition.


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