Going on holiday with the wrong people can have disastrous results. Long, awkward silences across the dinner table, forced to traipse around places you don’t want to go to or being hunted by a demonic presence and ritually sacrificed. But enough about my Easter weekend plans…
‘The Ritual’ centres around four friends who decide the best way for them to reconnect is to go on a camping holiday in Scandinavia. Even though two of them aren’t cut out for walking and they find they have little in common anymore, their problems really get going when they decide to take the dreaded short-cut. After this, things go from bad to worse and the group find themselves at the mercy of a beast hiding in the woods.
Author Adam Nevill takes us right into the action. There’s no hanging around Stockholm airport waiting for a taxi and no nights out in the city. The first time we meet the group is when they’re already at each other’s throats and beginning to panic about the situation after seeing what looks like an animal sacrifice. From then on, it’s only a matter of time before they either succumb to the elements or get picked off one-by-one.
The first half of the book reads like a classic horror story – a group of people in the wilderness being tormented by an unseen enemy. The four leads are also written well, with each member fulfilling a purpose for the group as well as feeding the animosity that has built between them.
What I wasn’t sure about, however, was the turn the book takes about half-way through. The pace changes completely and instead of stumbling around in the forest, it takes place in one location. It is different, I’ll give Nevill that, but I felt that instead of splitting the book in half the way he did, I would have spent more time on the four characters’ plight and a little more of their history together. Through conversation, we find out that they’re university friends and that resentment has bred among some of them but it would have been nice to know what caused them to bond so much in the first place that they felt it necessary to go camping together over a decade later.
A tight, tense opening that is somewhat marred by a slower second act but is still definitely worth a look. Makes a nice holiday read. Unless you’re going camping of course.
(pub:Pan MacMillan. 418 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-330-51497-2)