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The Night In The Woods Kristopher Triana Main

"That Night in the Woods" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Cemetery Dance Publications

the night in the woods kristopher triana poster large

Written by Kristopher Triana
2023, 358 pages, Fiction
Released on 7th October 2023


Since The Ruin Season was published in 2016, Kristopher Triana has released an impressive array of horror and mystery titles, including short stories, novellas and novels. I first read him a number of years ago with Shepherd of the Black Sheep (2018) and later They All Died Screaming (2020). However, he is undoubtedly best known for the stunning Splatterpunk Award-winning novella, Gone to See the River Man, which is an absolute knockout and features in my Horror DNA Top Ten Novellas of 2020. Once read, this book is not easily forgotten. Like many, I was beyond stoked to hear of the imminent sequel Along the River of Flesh.

Gone to See the River Man is nasty, powerful, lean and astonishingly mean and it is impossible not to judge Triana’s subsequent work against this astonishingly high benchmark. That Night in the Woods is a decent read but falls short of Triana’s finest. Its weakness is its length; 358 pages is ridiculously long for this story, doubled by the fact it is rather predictable. It can be frustrating for a reader to know exactly where a story is heading and for it then to take an age in getting there. One can appreciate authors who normally write shorter stuff wishing to expand into longer formats, but Gone to See the River Man is 180-pages with not a single ounce of fat, and in comparison, That Night in the Woods probably has enough plot to come in at a similar length rather than a bloated 358.

The plot of That Night in the Woods is also developed around a familiar and overused trope; teenagers meeting up in their forties and revisiting terrifying incidents from their past. We are all familiar with Stephen King’s IT, probably the most famous example. Ronald Malfi also very recently used a similar style in the excellent Black Mouth, with there being countless other comparable stories on the market. Even though this novel did hold my interest in regard to the secret the teenagers are hiding, I could not help being disappointed and slightly underwhelmed by how things play out. This is not surprising, as it is incredibly obvious which of the six main characters is dodgy, with the manner in which the story is framed, making it tricky to pan out in any other possible direction.

Events kick off with Jennifer, now in her mid-forties and lonely, receiving a message from Scott Dwyer after twenty-odd years without contact. Her first reaction is one of excitement, as Scott was her first love. Currently, in the middle of a divorce, nostalgia for her youth gets the better of Jennifer and she accepts his invitation. Upon arrival she is surprised to find out Scott has also contacted all the other members of their old ‘gang’ to honour the memory of Stephen, another classmate from their clique, who Scott reveals has recently passed away.

The reader quickly realises that Scott, Corey, Traci and Mark have not stayed in touch since high school, and for good reason. They were sucked into a traumatic event which remains shrouded for most of the story but is revealed in extensive flashback sequences to when they were eighteen. Scott wants the group to face the horror from their past and revisit the patch of forest encroaching on his house, a place once known as Suicide Woods. Morbidly named due to the high number of teenagers who inexplicably took their own lives in the forest around the time they were teens.

The story jumps from character to character, none of which are particularly likable, and have been ground down by midlife failure and disappointments. Mark tries and fails to maintain his teen tough-guy image, whilst Corey continues to be the outsider of the group (he read comics and is awkward with girls) and was included by default due to his friendship with Scott. Both women have shared history with Scott and after some awkward moments, the group begins to ease up with each other, mixing in a few drinks. However, nobody knows any details about the death of Stephen, with Scott revealing he was a recluse as the evening moves on. Some of the best suspense scenes are built around the enigmatic Stephen, who becomes fully formed in the teen flashback sequences.

That Night in the Woods is set over a single night/day and things fall apart very quickly when, to nobody’s surprise, they venture into the woods again. There are some strong scenes in the forest, particularly when the then and now sequences are contrasted with the excitement of teenagers doing dumb stuff and morphing into terrified adults fighting for their lives. Although it has its moments, That Night in the Woods lacks the bite of Kristopher Triana’s best work (nor is it as violent as his Splatterpunk stuff). But if you are a sucker for forest horror and folks making dumb decisions, then it is worth a look and is a diverting read.


Overall: 3.5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.

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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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