In the interest of full-disclosure, High Moor made this year’s preliminary ballot for the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award in the First Novel Category. My book, That Which Should Not Be, also made the ballot. That we are competitors of sorts should prove that my esteem for High Moor is in no way exaggerated.
I’ve never been a fan of werewolves. Not really sure why, but I’ve always been a vampire guy (Twilight notwithstanding). When werewolves and vampires became inextricably linked in pop culture, perhaps as a result of Underworld though maybe the linkage goes back further than that, I sided with the vampires. So when I heard about Graeme Reynolds and High Moor, I didn’t really expect to read it. I mean, it was about werewolves. Graeme is from golly old England, which meant that it was going to be written with all those bizarre spellings the English still insist upon, wasted ou’s in the place of o’s and oe’s stuck in words where an e would do just fine. But then I started to hear people who I trusted talk about the book, and I was intrigued. My verdict? I was never a fan of werewolves before, but I am now, at least if Graeme Reynolds is the one raising the full moon.
High Moor is a taunt horror-thriller filled with chills and action, a non-stop adrenaline rush that will have you turning pages at the speed a werewolf snaps its jaws or rips someone’s heart out. High Moor is a bifurcated narrative. Set in Northern England, the first half, minus a very short prologue and first chapter, takes place in 1986 and introduces us to John, Michael, and Marie. These three friends live relatively normal lives. That is, until Michael and Marie’s drunken father sends their brother into the woods to recover some forgotten tools. When he ends up dead, his body torn to pieces, a local police officer named Steven calls in an American to help hunt down what they assume is a wild beast. And beast it is, though not one they could ever imagine. The consequences of the events that follow will reverberate throughout the rest of all of their lives, leading us to the second half of the book, set in the present day.
There is so much to recommend Reynolds’s novel that I hardly know where to begin. I think the key choice he makes is to stick to the fundamental aspects of the werewolf mythos. So many authors who write on traditional topics—werewolves, vampires, zombies—think that they have to not only do something different, but radically so. Thus we end up with wise-cracking zombies and sparkling vampires. I was relieved that Reynolds resisted this temptation. At the same time, Reynolds builds a fantastic world of his own where werewolves live in the shadows, protecting their secrets through Pack Law enforced without mercy by the pack. The werewolves in Reynolds’s novel are of two varieties. Most can change at will, both controlling the beast within while harnessing its power. Others are “moonstruck,” able to change only upon the full moon. They are wild and vicious, and the pack werewolves hunt them down, lest they reveal their secret to the world. And let me tell you, there is a lot of hunting, a lot of fighting, and a lot of killing. No character is safe in Reynolds’s world, and that he establishes this fact early on heightens the tension in every werewolf encounter. His descriptions of the attacks are so rich and vivid that you will see them in your mind’s eye with a clarity normally reserved for movies. And it is that talent with description that may be Reynolds’s strongest suit. The man isn’t just writing a scene. He is creating a world for his characters to inhabit, one that I was sad to leave, though something tells me a sequel might be in the works . . . .
I truly loved this book. Once I started to really read it, I finished the novel in a day and a half. Whenever I put it down, I found myself coming back to it almost impulsively. I haven’t been this addicted to something since I downloaded Angry Birds. Recommended without reservation to anyone who is a fan of horror or anyone that wants to be. High Moor is the kind of book that will make converts of us all.