JH Moncrieff joins me via telephone to discuss her most recent novel , out now from Severed Press, yetis, and being a working writer. Afterwards, listen along for my review of the book.
In the snowy Ural Mountains, trouble took a group of nine, mangling their bodies and leaving a mystery. In the present, a podcast host seeks the challenge, alongside a team of professionals, mostly, and heads for Russia.
The setup is intriguing from the onset, even for me, someone who’d never heard of Dyatlov Pass incident. I won’t delve into the case here because it has nothing to do with the book, not really. It’s more of an outline in the way teens in the woods is an outline for slasher movies. The Dyatlov incident could’ve easily been an Amityville Horror kind of scenario and it would’ve worked just as well for me.
Dialogue is a major piece to the way J.H. Moncrieff told this story, perhaps at times to a downfall. Struggling up a mountain surrounded by strangers, hurrying to flee an impending attack, these are times that demand little chatter, but held quite a bit in the story. Sometimes, this chatter seemed to lessen the tenseness of this already light, for the circumstances, atmosphere, pushing away much of the horrific possibilities and settling into more of an occasionally suspenseful monster hunter mystery.
A vibe I’ve caught while reading many Severed Press titles over the years, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though I’m always hoping for full-blown horror with monsters.
That said, the finale did go that full-blown horror spot I love, with blood and surprise and honest shock. This was the biggest positive of a decent stack of positives about this story. There are comedic bits that work, and the mysterious side stressor that keeps the level of uncertainty high. This is also where most of the suspense comes in.
The characters were mostly unflawed, not quite superhuman, but by choice rather than by default, and any silliness in emotion can probably be a explained away by stress-induced hysteria. And there is some, and I did have to remind myself of unclear heads in the thick of such an extended crises.
The pacing of the story works very well, knocking bits needing covered like a checklist, ensuring something happens every handful of pages. The writing was proficient and at times colorful, never really stumbling.
I was engaged and curious as to how it would play out and which elements presented really mattered. This is an important point in a thriller, if everything is too easy mapped, the story drags, despite its action. Up and hill and down a hill, there was no clear cut route, so bravo there.
Great mystery, good subplot, and a fantastic finish. Return to Dyatlov Pass is an avalanche of violence splashed over an action thriller with a side dish of horror.