Hunter Shea has been on the Kendall Reviews radar for a while now. My love of monsters and ‘creature feature’ fiction means that Hunter’s recommended to me regularly. I felt there was no better place to start than with Hunter’s latest novel, the intriguingly entitled ‘Creature’.
I went into this novel with expectations of a fun read, featuring creatures, and characters that were to all intent and purpose, monster fodder. When I finished Creature I had actually read a beautifully written tale about loss, guilt, regret and of a love that strives to survive through major adversity. Don’t panic, Creature’s very much a horror novel, but here Shea has cleverly intertwined his ‘usual’ monsters with horrors that are very real.
Kate and Andrew are a couple that are struggling to cope with what life has thrown at them. Kate has serious health issues which offer a horrific range of symptoms . Her husband Andrew, is working a job he hates just so he can keep the medical insurance to help his ailing wife. It’s here in a surprisingly slow burn that we learn just how fragile their relationship is. They absolutely love each other, but life just doesn’t go where they expected and its this character study I found fascinating. It was this slow burn that embraced me, you really got to know Kate and Andrew. The relationship is written so well, never boring, yet given time to breath. There are aspects of their relationship that resonated with me, I won’t go into details but I’m in a not too dissimilar situation to the couple. The inner dialogue and turmoil written by Shea is spot on, the feelings of love, guilt and regret ring so true. (Unsurprising as Hunter writes in a wonderfully touching Afterword that Creature is, in part, autobiographical)
When Kate starts new experimental treatment, the couple decide to go away for the Summer. They rent a lakeside cabin in Maine, hoping that the change of location and a more relaxed lifestyle will be of benefit to both of them. It’s only once they start finding dead animals, and hearing a horrific screeching that they realise there is something in the woods, and it has them trapped in the very place they have gone to escape the horrible binds of real-life.
Creature is quite simply brilliant! It put me through the wringer, the final third of the book ramps things up to unbearable levels of emotional (and horrific) tension. It’s not very often I finish a horror novel with tears in my eyes, this book connected with me in a way no other has. It’s a beautiful horror story that will stay with you long after you snap the book shut.
Star Rating (out of 5): 5*
The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal.
But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead.
Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night.
FLAME TREE PRESS is the new fiction imprint of Flame Tree Publishing. Launching in 2018 the list brings together brilliant new authors and the more established; the award winners, and exciting, original voices.