cover image This Wretched Valley

This Wretched Valley

Jenny Kiefer. Quirk, $18.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-68369-368-0

Kiefer’s debut heralds the arrival of a major new horror talent. In October 2019, the remains of graduate student Sylvia Burnett are discovered in an eerily quiet patch of Kentucky woods, seven months after she was last seen alive with three companions at a Livingston diner. Her bones are oddly immaculate (“not one scrap of skin left”), baffling local authorities. The bodies of two of her companions—fellow grad student Clay Foster and professional climber Luke Woodhaven—are discovered next, both having sustained horrific injuries. (“How had his ribcage come to be folded outward like cabinet doors, as if a set of hinges existed on either side of his body?” the authorities wonder about Foster.) The only trace of the fourth member of the group, another climber named Dylan Prescott, are some bloodstained clothes. From there, Kiefer flashes back to the origin of the trip, which was spurred by Foster’s hopes that he might be able to use light detection technology to identify undiscovered rock formations that could become the next “climbing hot spot,” and chronicles how it all went horribly wrong. Through vivid descriptions of the creepy setting and thoughtful character portraits, Kiefer maintains a feeling of unease and nail-biting tension throughout. Devotees of daylight horror will be entranced. Agent: Lane Heymont, Tobias Agency. (Jan.)