When a group of college students set out to a remote jungle in Madagascar to study a nocturnal endangered species for their thesis, things don’t quite go as planned. After being saturated with supernatural folklore, an unexpected act of violence forces them to abandon their study immediately. In the midst of the chaos and terror, one of them doesn’t make it back…
Upon returning, things seem different. It’s not just the anonymous calls and messages that they’re starting to receive blaming them for the death of their friend, it’s also the feeling that something may have followed them home. That something is watching them and waiting for the right moment to make them pay.
Is it a mixture of trauma and paranoia, or is there a more carnal explanation for the evil stalking them?
WARNING: This book contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.
Extreme horror and Splatterpunk award nominated author Aron Beauregard has delivered something a little different with his latest novel, which combines African folklore with his own unique brand of gory mayhem.
Madison and Scarlett are going on the trip of a lifetime. Studying for their thesis in Natural Science, the two friends are travelling to Madagascar to study the Aye Aye, a nocturnal primate native to the region. They are accompanied by the quiet, reserved Elizabeth and their rowdy party-girl friend Lillian. The girls are excited to spend time in one of the remotest places on earth, learning about and studying this fascinating creature.
When an unexpected and violent tragedy occurs while on the trip, the group must make a hasty exit, returning home shaken and disturbed by their experience. Their troubles are only just beginning, however, as they find the events of their journey into deepest Africa have horrifying repercussions for them that follow them across continents to enact a terrible revenge.
In the Hands of the Heathens almost reads like two separate, related stories combined into one novel. The book’s first half, set in the jungles of Madagascar tells the story of an ill-fated expedition, steeped in atmosphere and building tension with creepy tales of local folklore. Once the book moves away from this setting, back to something more familiar, that familiarity bleeds over into the book’s direction and a lot of what follows is more typical slasher fare. Still, there is a lot of action in the book’s second half following the slow burn of the opening and while very different, both sections have a lot to offer.
The early chapters set in Madagascar were, for me at least, by far the strongest of the book. The vivid scene-setting and unique premise had me hooked from page one and it promised to be something genuinely different. While I did miss this when the plot moved the girls back to their home and normal life, a lot of Beauregard’s trademark gore scenes came into play in the latter half and while the book got somewhat more predictable, it was undeniably fun and bound to please fans of extreme horror.
Where I struggled somewhat was Beauregard’s unusual writing style. He is clearly a passionate and talented writer and certainly knows how to turn a phrase. His dialogue between the girls, in particular, feels very genuine and authentic, however, it took me a while to get accustomed to his use of some rather odd descriptions and jarring word choices. Once the story had me gripped I noticed it less, as I got swept away, but it took some getting used to.
In the Hands of the Heathens has a fantastic and genuinely intriguing premise that makes for a tense and unpredictable read. Its later chapters may switch things up, but have plenty of twists and turns as well as some memorable and gruesome scenes that make this a page-turner ideal for fans who like their horror hardcore.
Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.
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