I found Those Across the River in my Amazon.com recommendations, probably because of the John Ajvide Lindqvist books I’ve read lately. I read it in a weekend after borrowing it from the CLP on my Kindle–it’s a perfect scary read for a winter night, just make sure you have lots of lights on!
I saw it described online as Southern gothic, which is the perfect description. The story is set in 1935, centering around Frank Nichols and his soon to be wife Eudora. They move from the city of Chicago to the small, small Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank’s aunt has left him a beautiful old home. Though in her will, his aunt warned him to sell the house and NOT move in. Of course, he ignores her advice. His plan is to write a book about his grandfather, an evil war general who was killed by his own slaves and owned a plantation across the river from Frank’s aunt.
When Frank and Eudora arrive in Whitbrow, they meet the locals–farmers, a preacher, butcher, general store owner, etc. Eudora starts teaching at the high school and Frank starts writing his book. Eudora charms all the locals–she’s basically described as a sexy young thing that all the men notice. She’s totally sexually driven and I thought the newlywed-ness in their marriage got old fast. But you’ll find out that it’s kind of key to the story later.
Then the spooky factor starts when Frank takes a long walk across the river, in an attempt to find his grandfather’s plantation. He has trouble keeping to the path and encounters a young boy who isn’t wearing any pants. At first the boy just follows him, without speaking, and when Frank yells at him, the boy starts throwing stones at him. It’s at this point that Frank notices his teeth are filed to points. The weekend I was reading it I was at the 60% point on my Kindle when I went to bed, and was actually kind of spooked, and I can’t remember the last time a book spooked me.
As the story went on, it read a little bit like a typical horror movie–I kept yelling at Frank and Eudora, “why don’t you just leave, leave now!” It could have been shorter if the main characters had left town earlier. But when do characters in horror movies/novels do the smart thing? Considering this is Buehlman’s first novel, I was pretty impressed. The town of Whitbrow felt real and the writing was smart and suspenseful.
In terms of scariness, I’d rate it at a 7 or 8. But as an overall read, I gave it a 5.5. It was a little slow moving at first, as the story was being set up, and then it got a little long towards the end. But it was pretty creative as far as scary stories go. Just a little too unbelievable considering it was set up to be believable, if that makes sense.