Monday, 23 May 2011

'The Ritual' - Adam Nevill

Recommended by Tim Lebbon on twitter and when it comes to horror I trust him so had a look at the blurb and to my joy the setting for The Ritual is in Sweden not far from where I grew up. I could not have pressed the buy button any faster.

Four friends that met while studying at university and also shared a flat together have met up 15 years later for a hiking trip through northern Sweden. We have Hutch who is the unspoken leader, owner of a bicycle shop and he does a lot of hiking and other adventure sports. It was at his wedding the four friends decided to go on this trip. Dom and Phil are both very successful businessmen who did not adhere to their plan of hitting the gym to get fit for this trip. Lastly we have Luke who has not done as well as his friends and is living of minimum wage and lately been suffering from problems controlling his temper. This culminated with some tube rage where Luke flattened another passenger who did not wait for him to get off the train. Luke has in spite of being the poorest been able to go regularly to a gym so together with Hutch they are the only ones fit enough for this hiking trip.

The Ritual starts a couple of days into the hike and things are not going well. Phil and Dom are simply not fit enough, they have the wrong equipment, bad shoes and have already injured themselves and are slowing the group down. Hutch decides that they need to cut some time off the hike and finds a short cut. They come across a ghastly sight, a corpse of an animal has been brutally slaughtered and the remains are suspended on tree branches. There is no stench of decays, it is a fresh kill.

The four friends soldier on through the virgin scandinavian forest and just before dark they reach an abandoned cottage. They are soaked through and they decide to break into the cottage and spend the night there in spite of Luke's protest that it is not right. The other three enters the cottage leaving Luke outside and as he is about to go inside a load crack echoes through the woods. It sounds like something large and powerful has just ripped off a thick tree branch and Luke can smell the freshly laid bare wood. It's a two story cottage and as they settle in on the first floor they cant help feeling uneasy about something. The walls are covered with hand made crucifixes and the skulls of animals. Phil walks upstairs, but comes running down his face ashen. They are not alone, there is SOMETHING upstairs.

The Ritual terrified me. I just had to keep turning the page to find out what would happen next and all of a sudden it's 1am. I am amazed I could sleep after all the suspense. Adam Nevill knows what he is doing and The Ritual is a real roller coaster ride. There is always a hint, something on the edge of their vision, a terrible sound echoing around them. When something actually does happen it does so at a lightning pace and I found myself holding my breath once or twice. I don't normally read horror books and now I remember now, I just don't like being frightened. It is a very good book though and I felt I really got to know all the characters in it and what makes them tick. You cannot help feeling a bit sorry for Luke with all his repressed anger and how he feels like an outsider among his more successful friends.

The Ritual weighs in at 368 pages and is published by Macmillan.

Verdict: must read

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