Lauren and Miranda have been best friends forever. Every day one would say, “Meet me by the old ghost-tree” and they would have adventures together. But now Miranda only likes boys, and Lauren's father was found in the woods with his heart torn out, and no one was ever caught. So when Lauren has a vision of a monster dragging human remains through the woods, she knows she can't just do nothing.
Turning to all-out horror for the first time, dark fantasy author Henry (the Chronicles of Alice series) plays familiar tropes straight in this unoriginal tale of the evil that lurks just beneath the surface of an idyllic small town. It's 1985 and teenager Lauren diMucci's life in Smiths Hollow, Ill., is upended by the murder of her father. When two teenage girls are also found dead and in pieces Laura theorizes that the crimes may be connected to something lurking in the woods. When she goes digging into the history of Smiths Hollow she learns of her own surprising connection to the witches who once lived there and to a curse they cast that went horribly awry. Meanwhile, police officer Alex Lopez untangles a web of lies that obscures a sinister annual occurrence: the sacrifice of teenage girls to a malevolent supernatural entity. Henry writes with a keen eye for detail, drawing readers into the disturbing world with pitch-perfect '80s nostalgia and plenty of eerie atmospherics. Unfortunately, what should be heart-stopping scares fall flat, and the predictable plot twists will strike many as foregone conclusions. Seasoned horror readers will appreciate the prose but be underwhelmed by the story.