Dan Newman’s The Clearing is billed as an eerie thriller, and the book opens with a murder, which definitely has a strong, eerie overtone and was perfect for pulling me into this story. Unfortunately, the rest of the book was quite flat.
Nate, a young man, travels back to the island of St. Lucia, where his father has recently committed suicide. But the suicide of a diplomat is not the story here. As a young teen, Nate was caught up in an incident in which he and three friends went off alone into the wilderness of the island, but one of the boys didn’t return. Now he has to not only face the shock of his father’s death, but a past that has haunted him for many years, as well as the almost animalistic nature of the island itself.
The narration of the book bounces back and forth from the era when the teen boys discovered the brutal truth of death, to the present day, with Nate trying to come to terms with his past on St. Lucia. This back and forth storytelling is not uncommon, but I didn’t find it necessary. In fact, I tended to find the story of the past much more interesting than the present. The teen Nate was wide-eyed and impressionable, and what he sees has the strength and horror the way a good horror thriller should be. The older Nate is clumsy and remarkably unsure of himself. I really wanted to skip these chapters.
There is a lot of time spent on create a mood or an atmosphere for the book. Getting the proper mood for this sort of thriller is really important, but it definitely should not be all-consuming, and the story just develops too slowly to really be engaging.
The back and forth nature of the narrative was distracting and I didn’t quite understand why we were going back and forth. Typically, about the time I wonder ‘why’ in a book, the author will reveal something that lets us know why this has been important. I didn’t get that here. I really felt I had two distinct stories going.
I was mostly bored with this book, except for the opening chapter and one chapter about three-quarters of the way in, when something finally happened.
This is not recommended.
Looking for a good book? The Clearing, by Dan Newman, is a moody, dark thriller that spends more time on creating the mood than it does on developing a story.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Dan Newman
publisher: Diversion Books
paperback, 246 pages