cover image Black River Orchard

Black River Orchard

Chuck Wendig. Del Rey, $29.99 (640p) ISBN 978-0-593-15874-6

Bestseller Wendig (the Wanderers series) wows with this wildly unsettling horror tale set in Bucks County, Pa. When Calla Paxson was 12, her father, Dan, came home with a shriveled apple core that resembled a human finger, declaring that he would use the core to create an orchard that would make their family’s future and fortune. Five years later, the orchard has produced enough fruit for Dan to set up a stall at the town market, where his Ruby Slipper Apples (so named by Calla), are an unexpected hit, bringing in far more money than anticipated. Some consumers even come to consider themselves addicted to the unique fruit, which offers “a near-perfect balance of tartness and sweetness—that sour, tongue-scrubbing feel of a pineapple, but one that has first been run through a trench of warm honey.” Gradually, however, Wendig reveals that something darker lurks beneath the orchard, its weirdness affecting the family, as when one of the orchard’s trees impales two baby birds in their nest, and Dan, struck by a brief violent madness, snaps the mother dove’s neck. Wendig is brilliant at slowly raising the plot’s emotional temperature and making his characters, caught in a creeping nightmare, feel both real and empathetic. This masterful outing should continue to earn Wendig comparisons to Stephen King. (Sept.)