After a mysterious creature pops out from the trees, Andrew Braddock, a self-claimed "tree counter," crashes his jeep in the midst of the Appalachian mountains. The day started out with a routine research assignment, but is quickly turning bizarre as he fends for his life in a creek. He is quickly pulled to safety by an Army reservist who takes him to a top-secret research facility deep in the Appalachian mountains. As Andrew gets to know these new surroundings, he becomes acquainted with an entrancing nurse, an autistic child, an eccentric scientist, a forceful Major, and a collection of the enlisted, including his very own hero, the alluring Dani. Things are not quite as they seem, and soon Andrew finds himself putting together the pieces to form a truly horrific whole. Will he survive? Will anyone?
This contemporary horror novel by Sara Reinke pulls you in from the beginning and doesn't let you go until the very last page. Along the way, you're given hints as to the big secret at this "top-secret" facility, but the truth is so much worse than you can even imagine. What starts out as a bit of a mystery quickly reveals a truly horrific experiment gone out of control. With nicely developed characters, the story is an easy and colorful read. Andrew finds himself in a few romantic trysts in this story, but the star relationship is the intriguing connection between Alice (the autistic child) and Andrew. The ending offers a nice sense of closure while still leaving the reader guessing as to what may happen- the perfect mix for this type of horror novel. There is suspense and intrigue, with a good dose of gore thrown in for good measure.
I loved the idea behind this story. I can imagine such an event actually taking place in some remote location, as terrifying as it is. I was really drawn in by Andrew's character as we both tried to figure out what was going on. Although the major characters were, for the most part, well-developed, I felt Suzette's character didn't quite have the depth that the storyline required. She was somewhat of a major player, but I didn't quite understand her motivation and why she would take the job that she did, with the history that she had. She felt a little unrealistic compared to the other characters. I think the suspense was nicely done, but the gory "finale" lasted a few too many pages for my taste. Overall, a compelling tale!
(reviewed 60 days after purchase)