Author: N. T. Morris
Genre: Horror / Suspense
Publication Date: 1 October 2021
Available As: Paperback, hardback, and e-book
Horrific nightmares have plagued Aidan ever since he discovered the body at the side of the road. The sleepless nights and his constant mood swings have begun to put a strain on his marriage. In a bid to reconnect, Aidan and his wife, Laura, decide to leave the city behind them for the Lake House. A Victorian home, nestled at the edge of the forest that surrounds the picturesque town of Elmwood.
But every town has its secrets.
Since its founding, people in Elmwood have mysteriously gone missing. Locals, tourists, and people just passing through have vanished with no explanation. Then, one night, Aidan hears it… a dark, unnatural voice calling out to him, summoning him to the woods.
They say you should never judge a book by its cover. I’ve always found this to be a pretty daft saying. After all, that’s where the blurb is that tells you what the book’s about! Anyway, they may say this, but I absolutely judged Elmwood but its cover. The striking image of a slick yellow raincoat, a dark empty void where the face should be, against a dark and ominous forest and under the grinning visage of the full moon appealed to me almost as much as the Stephen King-esque font. Suffice it to say that, after seeing Elmwood crop up on my Instagram on a consistent basis, I knew that I had to find time to add it to me reading list and it definitely doesn’t disappoint.
Elmwood follows married couple Aiden and Laura Crain, who are still very much in love and in quite a physical and amicable relationship despite having been through some strife in their marriage. Things haven’t been right, however, since Aiden discovered Emily’s broken, headless body in the middle of the road; he’s been plagued by nightmares ever since, ones so strong that he’s been sleeping as little as possible to stave off the wild night terrors. Although he appreciates Laura’s patience, love, and understanding, Aiden has taken to hiding the true extent of his suffering from her so as not to worry her, which includes having private breakdowns and resorting to pills to numb the pain, but he’s more than willing to getaway from the busy and dangerous city for a few days in rural Elmwood.
Once in the small town, Aiden begins to feel his spirits lifted; the picturesque, quaint little town makes an instant impression on him and they being to rekindle their spark in the lovely Lake House. However, all too soon, things start to appear a little suspicious in Elmwood; some of the inhabitants are unnervingly rude, there’s an unexplained number of missing persons, and Aiden hears rumours and folktales about how the Lake House and its neighbouring woods are thought to be haunted. Although neither of them put much stock in this, Aiden’s nightmares increase in their intensity; he sees dark shapes stalking him, has vivid dreams of daydreaming out to the dark forest and stumbling across a trench full of dead bodies, and hears an ominous voice calling to him from the darkness. It gets so bad that he starts smoking again, and his paranoia and fear only deteriorate further when Laura messes about with a Ouija board and finds the mysterious and macabre diaries of the disturbed Nicolas Wright in a hidden room in the attic.
When Aiden tries to get help from the local police department, he finds them less than enthusiastic, which only exacerbates his desperation, and things come to a head following a dangerous car crash that sees Laura abducted by mysterious, robed individuals wearing animal skulls over their heads! Yes, Elmwood is a little bit of everything: it’s a murder mystery, a supernatural thriller, a story of grief and loss, and there’s a shadowy cult seemingly behind everything and targeting Aiden to appease some dark and ancient ritual out in the forest! N. T. Morris does a really good job of setting the scene and establishing his characters; focusing primarily on Aiden and Laura is a fantastic way of keeping things grounded and focused and Morris’s characterisations shine all the more thanks to him depicting well-rounded and logical main characters. I liked that they were both supportive and still had a bit of spark in their lives, despite the horrifying events that come to surround them, and it really made Aiden’s desperate search for Laura and frustration with the lack of co-operation from Elmwood’s finest all the more palpable.
Elmwood is, primarily, a psychological, supernatural thriller but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in visceral horror. We’ve got decapitated corpses, eldritch symbols carved into flesh, gruesome imagery of blood and wounds during Aiden’s many nightmares and dazed jaunts into the forest, mass graves filled with rotting bodies, and some pretty startling and effective scares. The Lake House itself becomes almost a living character at times, with basement doors creaking open, strange noises, and a number of tangible presences looming around every dark corner, to say nothing of the dark and looming forest and its devilish whispers. By the end, N. T. Morris really ramps up the terror as the macabre cult comes to the forefront and the book descends into a nightmarish sequence of human sacrifices, bloody murder, and a veritable orgy of gore. For me, this all landed really well; I enjoyed the escalating sense of tension, horror, and mystery and Elmwood had me gripped throughout.
If you’re interested in checking out Elmwood, and to learn more about N. T. Morris and his journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.