A forest can be a spooky place. It may seem lush and inviting to an urban dweller, but it’s not as welcoming as it seems. It’s easy to imagine that there might be things in the thickest part of the forest that are quite beyond our knowledge, watching and waiting.
This novella begins uncannily enough, with the narrator urging the reader to join him in the shape of a coyote. Afterwards the reader is present in the narrative as you press your coyote nose against the windows of the human characters.
The lead character is a big city property developer building a housing estate in rural New England. Martin dreams of building the suburban home that he never had during his rootless childhood, living in a trailer on site and planning to settle in one of the houses he builds. One morning, our hero wonders into the new England forest on a whim, straight into a revenant style bear attack. After staggering back to civilisation relatively unscathed, he hears the local legend of Scratch. Scratch is a local bogeyman and shapeshifter that the locals blame for various small misfortunes. A series of strange events occur around the town and it seems Scratch may be more than a myth.
Himmer’s writing is conversational and effortless, picking out the rhythms of small town life, Martin’s yearnings and the timeless patterns of the forest with equal ease.
It’s literary fiction with a supernatural edge. It starts slowly, but it comes to life gradually and by the end I was reading hungrily up until the chilling final sequence. The narrator’s strange presence in the story creates a feeling of being watched and of inevitable disaster. It become clear from the way they address the reader knowingly that they aren’t quite human.
This attractive volume from Wundor editions is Steve Himmer’s third book, all of which have links to nature and the outdoors. This is an intriguing and unsettling little novel, worth reading.
To purchase a copy of ‘Scratch’ visit Wundor Editions https://wundor-store.myshopify.com/products/scratch-by-steve-himmer
About the reviewer
Tom Andrews is a Genetics graduate and book lover based in Somerset. He has previously attempted music and game reviews. He tweets at @jerevendrai