‘An elk emerges from the overgrown pines and it is monstrous.’

Tuva Moodyson, isolated Gavrik’s newest reporter, is less than keen on being surrounded by overgrown forest and occasionally charged at by an elk, but Gavrik is home and home is near where her terminally ill mother lives, so she’s learned to live with her fear of the forest and the sound of the gunshots from the elk hunts.

When those gunshots find people instead of elk, and those people turn out to be missing their eyes, Tuva realises she will have to go deep inside the forest if she is to learn the truth and write the story that will make her name…

What’s it about?

Tuva’s investigation into the murders takes a darker turn when she discovers that there was a cluster of unsolved homicides twenty odd years ago – the Medusa murders – and those bodies were also missing their eyes.

While she gets to know the local characters, (apparently you can’t live that close to Utgard Forest without being exceedingly odd,) the local population start to turn her against her. Tuva is determined, for deeply personal reasons, to write The Truth about these murders, but the local community are more concerned about maintaining their reputation and ancient rights to hunt in the forest. If Tuva doesn’t find the murderer, will they find her?

What’s it like?

Atmospheric. Creepy. Cold. The town is cold, the characters are cold and the notion of stealing somebody’s eyes is deeply chilling.

This is the kind of small town where the oddball characters are so very odd you can imagine any one of them as the killer – or perhaps more than one of them, in the case of the elderly sisters who hand-carve trolls made with real human hair for a living.

Writing deafness

Tuva is deaf and this is referenced frequently from the very first page. She is constantly putting her hearing aids in, turning them on, turning them off, drying them out…this might sound dull but actually it gives an insight into how she has adapted to her deafness; she frequently relishes complete silence, tuning out all distractions by the simple act of turning off her aids.

Final thoughts

Although I had to question Tuva’s sanity when she chose to enter Utgard forest armed with a ball of wool and a slingshot, (Hiya, Gretyl; give my love to the witch when she catches you,) I enjoyed the creepy atmosphere throughout, the general development of Tuva’s investigation and her increasing boldness.

Tuva returns in ‘Red Snow’, out soon, and I’m looking forward to finding out what and who she’s investigating next.

‘Dark Pines’,
Will Dean,
2018, Point Blank, paperback