by Adam Nevill (Macmillan, R190)
I enjoy watching scary movies. I bask in the thrill of trying not to be frightened. A bit masochistic, I know, but I get a kick out of it: ooh, too much blood; ooh, dramatic music; a zombie is going to chew that girl’s arm off.
The Ritual is downright intense and creepy. There’s no dramatic music to clench your jaw in antici-pation of the worst. Mind you, playing soothing music of your own doesn’t help much.
Luke, Hutch, Dom and Phil, high school buddies from London, tread through the dark and wet wilderness of Scandinavia – they’re lost, and you find yourself at odds with your comfortable surroundings.
Nevill writes so vividly it is as if he is watching a movie, pausing it intermittently and documenting every aspect of what is going on in it.
The story picks up from the second day of the four being lost in an impenetrable forest, where they stumble across a corpse slung high in a tree.
Frightened, and with little light for comfort, they follow a trail that threatens to take them off course. But they follow it, hoping to readjust their track ahead.
Dom and Phil, the heaviest of the four, are injured. Dom’s knee is bruised and painful, while Phil’s foot is swollen and prickly to walk on, slowing them down considerably.
As night falls, the group realise something is watching them from the dark that surrounds them.
What follows is a cat and mouse game between the vulnerable group of friends, cursing their decision to hike in the alien habitat, and a ferocious predator in its element.
Forced to be in close proximity, they reflect on their friendships and the significant changes in character that have pushed them apart.
One thing is clear: not all of them, if even one, will make it out of the forest alive. This book is chilling to the bone and would make for an unnerving and scary movie.