Expected publication: October 1 2013 by Severn House Publishers
I'd never heard of F. G. Cottam when I stumbled upon this book on NetGalley. My decision to hit request was driven by an intense case of cover-cum-title love, and the fact that this was due for release on my birthday (yes, I can be shallow like that sometimes). But if all his books are this wonderfully creepy, then I sure have a lot of reading to do in the near future.
The Memory of Trees is an immaculately crafted piece of horror driven by the age-old formula of dread. It's the kind of book that makes you intensely uneasy for no clear reason and then takes advantage by amplifying that anxiety with every other chapter, like that feeling you sometimes get of being watched but when you turn there's no one there. The build-up is so intense that even though you have no idea where it's going, you dread reaching there anyway.
Billionaire Saul Abercrombie hires Tom Curtis a.k.a the "Tree Man" to restore his vast sea-side estate to it's ancient verdant glory. But the land harbors dark secrets, hidden in myths and Arthurian legends, and it may be too late before Curtis realizes that some forests aren't supposed to exist.
The best, or in this case, creepiest aspect of the book is the setting. There is something very wrong about Abercrombie's land and Cottam captures that vile atmosphere brilliantly. The ancient desolate church with it's single large montage depicting a legendary hero, the cairn of stones where the wind shrieks and whistles as it passes, the undiscovered cave that folklore claims is the abode of ancient monsters, and most of all, the thorn bush, oh Lord, THAT THORN BUSH - I'm expecting them all to feature in my nightmares.
Cottam's writing is fantastic. It's lush and descriptive with minimum dialogue.
"There was something unlovely about the acreage Abercrombie owned, a baleful quality beyond its vastness. It was a place where things seemed to lurk and hide and to have qualities other than those they ought rightfully to possess."
Just what I was saying earlier but in Cottam's lovely words.
Things don't start happening right away, of course. There are many characters and back-stories to get through in the first few chapters so I can't guarantee you'll be hooked from page 1 even though I was. I never felt bored, I never felt the mood or pace falter. This book definitely has five-star potential and I'm only holding out on the rating because this is my first (and surely not last) Cottam book.
The Memory of Trees is the creepiest book I've read this year. I'm not a girl who's easy to scare but I would be lying if I said I didn't have goosebumps on my arms at a certain point while reading. I live on the fourth floor and there are many trees around my apartment. No willows or yews, thank God, but there are some palm trees that are waving their feathery fingers at me right now and creeping me out.
Just for tonight, I'll sleep with the window shut tight and the curtains drawn.
4.5 stars rounded down to 4
**I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**