The story starts with a statement from the police department of a Vermont town concerning a manuscript they’ve recently received in the post. We’re given scant detail but warned that some of the content is disturbing. What follows is the story contained in the document. It takes us back to the mid-nineteen-eighties and introduces us to Wayland Maynard, a boy who at the age of eight witnessed the suicide of his father. At age sixteen he started to have doubts concerning what he actually saw that day. What follows is his account of what transpired.
Wayland lived with his often-absent mother and his wayward younger sister. The small group of support characters we meet include his best friend Clay, his sister’s scumbag boyfriend and Juliette, a girl that Wayland fancies from afar but is afraid to approach. Wayland and Clay do what teenagers do, which includes snooping around and catching glimpses of events that titillate and disturb in equal measure. But Wayland’s real focus is in delving back into the events of that fateful day, armed with a piece of evidence he removed from the scene and has kept to himself ever since.
Having been furnished with the background we are now treated to a fairly detailed account of events which occur over a short period of time. Wayland, Juliette (who he is now at least engaging with) and Clay are all involved, though there seems to be little discernible structure to their efforts. By now the author is adopting a tone which is part gothic horror, with his recurrent use of grandiose and hyperbolic language, but tempered with intermittent sections which have a softer coming-of-age feel. It’s an interesting mix of moods we’re being we’re being teased to adopt. The story is well paced throughout but as pieces of the jigsaw start to fall into place it’s suddenly full speed toward a final reckoning. A big finish seems likely – and that’s exactly what we get.
There are some jaw-dropping moments in this story, scenes that are truly shocking and at least one which is likely to prompt a double take from readers. But is it possible that there are just too many surprise revelations to fully process and accept? Perhaps, for some, but I think most readers will simply roll with the punches and soak it all up. At its heart it’s an old story, but it’s told in a way that feels fresh. It worked for me and managed to hold me in its grip throughout.
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