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It’s Christmas Eve. Having lost his wife, Joe Whitaker is spending the day hunting deer with bow and arrow in the mountains of New England. He finds a sense of peace getting back to nature, and even leaves his phone in his truck, wanting to free himself from the everyday world for a few hours. But no sooner does he enter the woods than his peace is interrupted by Nicole, a frantic woman running barefoot through the snow. She claims she was kidnapped and had managed to escape, but the man who imprisoned her is now on her tail and won’t stop until she’s his hostage again.
Joe wants to help Nicole, but when he comes across Dan, the man pursuing her, he’s told Nicole has a serious mental illness and is delusional. Dan claims he isn’t her kidnapper – he’s her husband. As a snowstorm bears down on the mountain, Joe soon finds himself in a deadly triangle with a mysterious man and a panicked woman, not knowing who to trust. If he makes the wrong choice, it might just cost him his life.
I have seen many Kristopher Triana books, and I have heard many good things about them, particularly Gone to See the Riverman and The Thirteenth Koyote, but I have never picked any of them up. When Night Worms sent a special edition of two of his novellas in their November package, I thought this would be as good of a place as any to start reading his work.
The first novella is “A Cold Place for Dying.” Joe has lost his wife and decides to spend Christmas Eve hunting deer. He starts early because there is supposed to be a blizzard coming in the afternoon and he needs to get off the mountain and go home, hopefully with a dead animal in the bed of his truck. What he finds is a woman running through the woods, screaming that she has been kidnapped and tortured and she needed help. She runs off when she hears Dan calling for her. Dan says he is her husband, she is mentally ill, and they need to find her. Nichole says Dan is a liar and a kidnapper and he is holding her against her will. Joe does not know who to believe in this situation, and as the afternoon progresses and the snow starts to fall, the story and the truth grows more and more convoluted. Joe wants to do the right thing, listen to the right person, and make the right decisions, but he has no idea what they might be. It seems like he is hesitant because Dan says he is a police officer but Nichole shows evidence of abuse. He is kind of stuck, and this indecision becomes dangerous and his focus eventually turns to surviving this entire situation, including the snow that has started to fall. I enjoyed this novella; this feels like an old school horror where no one is to be trusted and everyone is dangerous. I like Joe and how he is sympathetic to the situation and only wants to do the right thing, even though he does not know what it is.
The second novella, “The Love Nest” is about a man who is run off the road, kidnapped, and put into a cage in a family’s backyard. He is in there with a woman, and they team up to try to find a way to escape. This is another old school horror with a crazy family like in Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes, doing what crazy families do. For some reason the writing and the plot reminded me of Jack Ketchum and the stories that he wrote, where people can be the biggest monsters of all.
I liked both of these novellas, and I feel like the reason people have been talking so much about Kristopher Triana because he deserves it. I need to read some of his other books because so many of them are getting rave reviews. He is definitely an author I will be reading again.