Carnifex by Matthew J Hellscream

Carnifex by Matthew J Hellscream

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Carnifex is the story of a group of friends who are sucked into a nightmarish world – AKA a small (fictional) country town in Queensland. Okay, there’s a little more to it than that – there are really creepy locals, there are really bureaucratic bureaucrats… oh, and there’s large, man-eating marsupial lions.

The travelling friends who are the main characters in the story are well fleshed out; and the other characters we meet along the way are genuinely relatable. While parts of this novel have the feel of a teenage schlock-horror film, there is real depth to the characters.

It is not difficult to draw a comparison with the Wolf Creek movies – starring the deliciously evil John Jarratt. However, I found Charlie Bruce a strangely compelling villain, whose motives on the surface seemed genuinely community-minded, but the lengths he will go to protect the town’s secrets are a bit beyond the pale.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here, but there is one big letdown for me, and that is the ending. Hellscream does an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension, and the stakes over the course of the novel, but then lets the pressure valve off right at the very end. I re-read the ending a number of times, but still felt dissatisfied.

All in all, I found Carnifex a generally terrific horror novel, with plenty of creep factor, and more than a little gore. The action keeps rolling on, barely allowing the characters to rest. There are shades of Matthew Reilly, Crocodile Dundee thrown in for good measure as well. If the ending were handled differently, I would have rated it even higher.

4.5 stars

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