Vicious Creatures

Ashton Noone. Scarlet, $25.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-61316-338-2

Thirty-three-year-old Ava Montgomery, the narrator of Noone’s splendid debut, a novel of gothic suspense, is nearly broke and in the middle of a contested divorce from her abusive husband when she reluctantly retreats to Reachwood, Ore., her childhood home, with her 14-year-old daughter. Nothing much has changed in the small town surrounded by a dark and dangerous forest. The same wealthy families—the Albrights, Harts, and Gallaghers—still reign supreme, and “one child vanishes into the forest every decade or so. Just long enough for the neighborhood to start to forget.” Ava left Reachwood as a teen to escape accusations she played a role in the death of Adam Albright, a high school classmate. When she starts receiving threats, it’s clear that there are those who still hold her responsible for Adam’s death. What has her return set in motion? Shifts between present-day chapters and those set 15 years earlier build and maintain tension. All the while, the brooding forest plays its part in this disturbing drama distinguished by vivid prose, credible characters, and assured pacing. Noone is off to a terrific start. Agent: Penelope Burns, Gelfman-Schneider ICM Partners. (July)
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