Originally posted on The Nerd Daily.
Inspired in part by true events, Bram Stoker Award®-winning author Tom Deady’s new novel, The Clearing [Vesuvian Books, August 10, 2021] blends horrors of the past with today’s terrors—and a supernatural twist that will keep readers’ skin crawling cover to cover.
There’s good reason for those itchy sensations prickling along your skin, too—the buzzing terror of The Green Mile meets the unsettling atmosphere of The Skeleton Key in The Clearing. Deady is a master of ambiance; readers will find themselves ensnared in a web of despair from the moment they first enter The Clearing’s bleak, stifling, sodden New England summer. Even in the sunshine, the atmosphere is soggy, humid and heartbreak weighing down the air as Hannah Green spends her summer break suffering the two worst teenage terrors: a broken family—her mother seeming to have not just abandoned home but disappeared into thin air—and debilitating boredom. That is, until her dog comes out of the woods carrying a sneaker that contains a partially decomposed foot.
Finally having something to lull them out of their summer stasis, Hannah and her best friend, Ashley, soon find themselves in the middle of a decades-old mystery. The girls make a shocking discovery about what has been happening in the woods behind Hannah’s house—and it’s gruesome at best. As they get closer to the truth, things take a dangerous turn, and the secrets they discover make the foot unearthed from an ominous forest clearing look almost benign compared to the nightmare they will soon experience.
But who does the shoe—and the foot—belong to? This is where Deadly looks to the past to inject a frightful dose of true crime terror by revisiting the 1972 murder of sixteen-year-old Jeannette DePalma, whose death was rumoured to have been at the hand of a local coven of witches in a ritual occult sacrifice. Herein is another of Deady’s special skills: blending ambiance and nostalgia so that the story pulses off the page like a spider’s egg sac, ready to bust. Beyond DePalma’s death, The Clearing spins in threads of the “Satanic Panic” of the eighties, ye olde summers of nineties-past, and a few carefully laced in pop culture references through the decades, ultimately weaving a timeline sticky enough to capture the attention of three generations of readers.
Even with its multi-generational appeal baked in, The Clearing is firmly rooted in YA. Deady’s characters not only ring true as authentic, realistic, and compelling present-day teenagers, but Hannah and Ashley’s friendship—replete with what they term a mental mind meld—is true #squadgoals. The girls are unique enough to contribute two perspectives, while strong enough as a duo to make their heroics not just believable, but a ray of light in an otherwise very dark story.
Readers biting their nails in anticipation of a final plot twist may find the ending teetering on the edge of flat, but don’t worry—Deady’s not done at THE END, and it’s not time for a happy ending yet. Wise readers would do well to stay out of the woods…and not skip the Epilogue.
Lindy Miller Ryan is an author, editor, and spooky things enthusiast who occasionally makes crafty things and bakes.