THE WOMAN, Jack Ketchum & Lucky McKee, Cemetery Dance, $35, 208 pages, 9781587672538, reviewed by Barry Hunter.
Jack Ketchum has surprised me before with his writings, but this time he has caused me to move his name up several notches on my list of horror writers. This is one novel (and bonus novella) that will cause you to question the inhumanity of man and his treatment of his family and others.
THE WOMAN is a feral creature that has survived by her wits and her careful nature. Christopher Cleek is a husband, father, and lawyer that rules all aspects of his life with an iron hand. Cleek is out hunting one day and comes across THE WOMAN bathing in a stream and develops a plan that will affect his entire family.
Cleek captures THE WOMAN and shackles her in his root cellar. He gives each member of his family – his wife Belle, his son Brian, and his daughters Peg and Darlin’ – a chore in her keeping. There are many secrets in the Cleek household and he has managed to buy out his neighbors in order to continue his amoral and savage longings.
The presence of THE WOMAN causes Belle to question some of her choices; Brian starts behaving more like his father; and, Peg, keeping her own secret, tries to shield Darlin’ from what is happening. Cleeks brutality and unstable behavior comes to a head in a final battle where his secrets are revealed and few are left standing.
THE WOMAN is a story that shows that the savage may not be as savage as the human who is in control. Also included is a novella, “Cow”, which shows us what is happening a year after the grand finale of THE WOMAN. Be prepared for this dark work. I would love to say more, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises that lie between the covers of THE WOMAN.