BONECHILLER, BY GRAHAM MCNAMEE published September 2008 304 pages (hardcover edition)
OVERALL RATING: 5/5
Synopsis: Bonechiller is a supernatural horror thriller set in the Big Empty of Canada in a little town called Harvest Cove-- aka Nowhere. The town's only inhabitants are the narrator, Danny, and his father, who've been on the run ever since his mother died of a brain tumor, the resident army base soldiers and their brats... and an ancient monster who has been stalking and killing teenagers in the frozen ice and snow since before written record. The Windigo is a terrible, cannibalistic beast well-known to the Ojibwas (Native Americans) of Northern Canada. It's all but impossible to kill, impenetrable to bullets, and it's glacier-bound lair is a place of unimaginable terror. When Danny and his brainy friend Howie are selected by the Windigo as its newest victims, they find that disturbing changes begin to take place in their bodies: suddenly they're insusceptible to cold and they have nightly, all-too-realistic nightmares where they are hunted in dreams by the monstrous Windigo. Even during the day the two are constantly haunted by the call, an irrestible pull to the arctic tundra where the Windigo patiently awaits their arrival. Time is running out and when Howie ends up in the hospital, Danny is forced to take a final stand against the creature along with his sort-of-girlfriend Ash-- an army brat and five times as skilled a boxer as any of the guys-- and Howie's pyromaniac brother, Pike. Pike has a crazy plan which just maybe could end the Windigo's ancient reign of terror and save Danny and Howie from an icy grave-- or else leave the four friends just four more skeletons in the Windigo's cave.
Halloween is just around the corner and everyone is busy seeking out scary stories and novels. Bonechiller is a book I've read many times-- because it's just that good. The first time I read this book, I just could not put it down. It's part psychological thriller and part horror-flick style monster tale, the cold northern setting making the book slightly reminescent of 30 Days of Night. The eerie, shadowy legends of the Windigo are a welcome change in a genre where vampires and werewolves often seem to have the run of the place.(Not that I don't love them both!)
Bonechiller has just enough emotional depth to make the story feel very, very real and terrifying. My favorite character by far is Ash-- she's a tough girl like no other I've read about and the romance between her and Danny makes it easy to root for them. But it is the descriptions of Danny's long trudge home through 30 below temperatures and miles and miles of silent, windswept tundra and the apparition of the monster itself which will have you shivering beneath your warm covers at night, carefully closing the blinds of your window for fear of what you might glimpse beyond the glass. Bonechiller is the perfect book for Halloween and anytime you just feel like reading something exceptionally creepy.
Graham McNamee is also the author of the Silence of the Lambs-esque debut novel, Accerlation, which I have yet to get my hands on yet.