Northwoods by Bill Schweigart

February 7, 2016

Please note Northwoods is a direct sequel to The Beast of Barcroft. It is entirely possible if you haven’t read that first then this review could contain some minor spoilery type elements and stuff. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Some borders should never be crossed. From the author of The Beast of Barcroft comes a waking nightmare of a horror novel that’s sure to thrill readers of Stephen King and Bentley Little.

Ex–Delta Force Davis Holland, now an agent for the Customs and Border Protection, has seen it all. But nothing in his experience has prepared him for what he and the local sheriff find one freezing night in the Minnesota woods.

Investigating reports of an illegal border crossing, the two men stumble across a blood-drenched scene of mass murder, barely escaping with their lives . . . and a single clue to the mayhem: a small wooden chest placed at the heart of the massacre. Something deadly has entered Holland’s territory, crossing the border from nightmare into reality.

When news of the atrocity reaches wealthy cryptozoologist Richard Severance, he sends a three-person team north to investigate. Not long ago, the members of that team—Ben McKelvie, Lindsay Clark, and Alex Standingcloud—were nearly killed by a vengeful shapeshifter. Now they are walking wounded, haunted by gruesome memories that make normal life impossible. But there is nothing normal about the horror that awaits in the Northwoods.

I read The Beast of Barcroft last November and I enjoyed the experience. The sequel is now upon us, and the good news is that it is more of the same. I’m a simple man at heart and I reckon you can’t beat a bit of malevolent monster mayhem.

Ben McKelvie and Lindsay Clark are both still reeling after the events in the first novel. Discovering that the beasts you have always consider mythical actually exist is still quite a difficult concept for them both to grasp. They have been through so much trauma, getting back into the fray isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. Ben remains a bit of a mess as a human being, and he argues with Lindsay frequently. That said they support one another, and there is a nice pseudo-sibling relationship developing. It feels like they both realise that they function better together than apart.

This new investigation has a distinctly personal edge for Alex Standingcloud. Events are unfolding in and around the area he grew up, and that means he has come into contact with his father. Both are proud men and the interactions between the two are often tense. I enjoyed these moments; they’re well handled.

The new addition to the team, Davis Holland, is playing catch up with everyone else. He has seen some strange phenomena but isn’t quite as accepting of it as everyone else (well, at least up until the point where the brown stuff hits the fan. The good news from our perspective is that it hits the fan in a quite spectacular fashion).

The thing I enjoyed most about this book, and its predecessor, is the way the author has taken elements from Native American mythology and woven them in and out of the plot. I enjoy learning about other cultures and this story has left me hungry to discover more about this part of the world, its people, history and legends. I’d love to travel in this part of the world, minus the flesh eating critters obviously.

As the plot developed, I started to see suggestions of a much larger narrative arc that I hope is going to continue in future books. There are far larger forces at play, and currently the only people standing against them and the rest of the world are Ben McKelvie and company. Hopefully we’ll get to learn a bit more about the enigmatic Richard Severance to boot. In many respects, that man remains a mystery.

If you’re looking for cannibalism, rampaging packs of hyenas, multi-dimensional shape-changing spirit beings, and a whole truck load of non-stop action, then I would heartily recommend that you give Northwoods a try. This is thoroughly entertaining fiction from Bill Schweigart and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Please tell me there is going to be another book?

Northwoods is published by Hydra and is available from 16th February.

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