The Clearing by Dan Newman

17737081“This childhood nightmare never went away…” In 1971, four boys walked into a jungle. Only three came back alive. They blamed what happened on a mythical monster, but no-one believed them. Forty years later, the truth is finally coming out…Journalist, Nate Mason, is one of the survivors. Haunted by memories he doesn’t fully understand, he returns to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to unravel the tragic events of his childhood. Back then, as the son of a diplomat, Nate was part of an elite social circle. This included the island’s “royal family”, the De Villiers, who owned a decaying mansion deep in the jungle, staffed by the descendants of slaves. It was here, during a weekend of whispered childhood secrets and dares, that Nate’s innocence was torn apart. But Nate’s not the only one obsessed with the demons in his past. Within hours of arriving back on the island, he becomes convinced he’s being followed. But even though he soon realizes he’s risking his sanity as well as his life, he can’t stop himself from searching for the answers he came here to find. Can childhood nightmares haunt you for the rest of your life?  How much do you need to believe in a monster for it to become real? The Clearing is a dark and atmospheric psychological thriller, full of intrigue, terror and superstition, which examines our deep fear of the unknown.

Have you ever met a person who was trying to make a point but they just kept talking in circles?  That’s how I felt about this book.  The first few pages of The Clearing were shocking and intense – a great start.  But for me, the story lost its momentum after it flashed back to present day and never seemed to regain that same energy.

I wanted to know what happened to the boy who was killed in the jungle, but had it figured out before getting halfway through the book.  The description says the boys blamed the death on a mythical monster and no one believed them, but that’s not what happened in the story.  They never talked to anyone about what happened and how the boy was killed was the secret Nate had carried for so long.  A little misleading.  The motive for the murder was obvious, but it never seemed to ring true for me.  Without giving anything away, maybe a little more information about the character relationships and their background would have helped.

The author’s descriptions of St. Lucia portrayed a beautiful tropical setting, but I felt as if they sometimes overshadowed what was happening in the story.  I enjoyed the interactions between the boys when they were younger and thought the author captured the mischievousness and dynamics of that age group very accurately.  Nate had also experienced tremendous loss in his adult life and his emotions were portrayed quite well.

Overall, I liked this book, but maybe if the description had been more accurate, I would have had different expectations before reading it.

This review was based on a digital ARC from the publisher by NetGalley.

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