From the creative mind of British author Michael R Martin comes a memorable crime thriller with a healthy dose of science fiction in a story which convincingly blends the two genres together, taking the best aspects of both and culminating in a gripping plot with an unconventional ending.
The literature regarding the plot of ‘Screams in the woods’ is deliberately cagey, and for good reason. Much of the books success relies on the numerous twists and turns which keep you gripped as the story progresses and the plot thickens. Promoted as a mystery involving a private investigator who is hired to give closure to a family, whose loved one has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, the book leaves you in two minds about the path the plot will ultimately take as the disappearance may, or may not, be linked to a historic mining disaster in the late 1800s; the details of which are as equally guarded and mysterious as the real-world synopsis and acts as a successful plot hook from the get go. Do not be fooled by the brevity of my plot description, this book is so much more than meets the eye and rest assured covers far more ground than the standard genre fayre. From this point on however, I am going to minimise the amount of plot discussed in this review to ensure that you are able to experience and enjoy the book in the same way I did, with no knowledge of the numerous and unpredictable plot twists that you will keep you captivated along the way.
Particularly impressive are Michael R Martin’s choice and development of characters. The leading lady Christine is strong willed and well-grounded in contrast to her unlikely sidekick who is not all he seems to be. Despite the fantasy plot, both characters are relatable and develop well through the book as we join them in the mixture of day to day routines contrasted with the outlandish events which take place throughout the story; in all cases the consistency of writing makes even the extra-ordinary seem somewhat ‘normal’ and believable. There are no stunningly beautiful but tragically misunderstood heroines, or achingly handsome men harbouring dark secrets, an irritating cliché that so many authors fall into, just regular people who you empathise with and root for as the story moves on. The confidence in which the author develops these real, but complex, characters makes this book highly refreshing.
The descriptive prose within the book is particularly enjoyable, with the rich vocabulary employed painting a vivid and sometimes almost 4D experience for the reader. One of the indicators of a good book is that you find yourself rushing through to find out the ending, and there were many parts during time with the book in which I had to force myself to slow down. My only words of caution against rapid page-turning would be that at times the plot delivers some important reveals in quick succession, and at crucial moments, almost to the extent that it takes some deciphering as to what is going on. In one of the later chapters there was a twist in the story that was so profound that I had to take a break from reading to process it!
Fear not though, as with all masters of their craft, Martin leads you though all such junctions with skill and finesse; even readers unfamiliar with the more common Sci-fi concepts will enjoy the depth of exposition as, where necessary, the book’s tone and detail becomes almost academic in nature. As Martin describes in detail some of the more technical mechanics of his story you may also feel at some points like you are immersed in a non-fiction book; take your time through such sections and absorb all that is presented, trust me, such details are crucial to the plot, and the finale is all the more rewarding for it.
Overall ‘Screams in the Woods’ is nothing short of white knuckle journey. Once the last page has been turned I can guarantee that you will sit back, take a deep breath and pause as you return to reality. You will scarcely believe how far the characters and plot have developed from such a “normal” starting point. I can easily recommend the book to those readers who enjoy a rich and deep story which will linger in your mind long after the final page has turned.
I look forward to what author Michael R Martin will publish next.