If High Moor were a Premier League football match it would be a Monday Night Special between two mid-table sides that ends in a 4-4 draw or a 6-3 win; it’s not the beautiful game played out by twenty-two players at the height of their technical abilities but, by god, it’s thoroughly entertaining.
The bulk of the novel is set in the wonderfully evoked, and well-researched summer of 1986. A carefree time of BMX bikes, twenty pence mix-ups and a certain, diminutive, cheating Argentinean footballer. The book centres on three friends who venture into the woods to build a tree-house and end up with more than they bargained for when they encroach into the territory of a werewolf. This flashback section is book-ended by modern events in which John, one of the three friends now grown and living a solitary existence, is alerted to a strange incident in his former home town and feels compelled to return. The modern sections are well-handled and leave the story intriguingly poised for further instalments, but it is in the childhood part where the reader is firmly grabbed by events and the book is at its strongest.
The novel is well paced and Reynold’s writing is at its best in the vivid werewolf attack scenes. The action is described with no shortage of flair, not to mention lashings of gore and suitably gross-out moments of violence. Characters, even the minor ones, are well described, and especially in the case of the children, you care about what befalls them. The author also shows a willingness to go where the story dictates even if this might not be to the liking of the majority of readers. This, much to the benefit of the story, leaves the reader with the feeling that anything could happen as they are propelled towards the climax. The mythology of the werewolves is pleasingly well developed with the concept of ‘pack’ werewolves considering themselves to be of a higher status than ‘moonstruck’ adding both additional tension and a suggestion of a more wide-ranging, global conflict to be explored over further instalments.
There are some faults, the dialogue never seems to rise above perfunctory with little to differentiate characters and some of the language of the children felt a little mature for their age ranges. Additionally the seeming lack of any need for those in authority to explain actions and their aftermath in some of the key scenes makes the town of High Moor feel like the lawless Wild West at times. These are minor niggles and none overly harm the novel which remains an enjoyable and compelling experience.
The werewolf, whilst yet to hit the heights achieved by vampires and zombies, is in a rich vein of popularity at the moment and High Moor more than holds its own with a sense of urgency and black humour that provides the reader with a fun, fast, enjoyable read.
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