Review: The Thicket by Noelle West Ihli

cover of The Thicket by Noelle West IhliThe Thicket by Noelle West Ihli
Dynamite Books (July 2021)
307 pages; $15.41 paperback; $2.99 e-book
Reviewed by Janine Pipe

The Thicket is, in a nutshell, a slasher story set at Halloween. That very fact alone ticked many boxes and I was not disappointed. We seem to be riding a new wave of all things slasher right now, with the popularity of Fear Street reigniting the flame for us ’90s kids, and hopefully a new generation of fans has been born. There is something just cozy for me about this particular sub-genre; it allows for tropes and formula. Basically, you (usually) know what you’re getting with this subject matter.

The titular “Thicket” is an archetypal haunted house attraction much like Halloween Horror Nights or Knott’s Berry Farm, using the old cabins and land of an abandoned sugar mill for the scares and mazes. One evening, things get a little too real when one of the guests is brutally murdered.

We follow several characters, including the bereaved sister of the victim, over the next few weeks as they return to the scene of the crime; the party must go on and the attraction has reopened. In fact, it is even more popular now since everyone loves a good kill scene, right?

We also get little snippets into the POV of the killer, although not as much as I would have liked. There didn’t need to be a complete psychological assessment of why they do what they do, but I like it when we step into the shoes of the antagonist, especially if that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. I enjoyed the premise behind the narrative and the characters. The teenagers seemed very plausible and easy to relate to with believable dialogue. The genuine grief felt by the surviving sister was compelling.

There were a few twists and turns, some familiar to anyone who loves a good slasher tale and knows their Finals Girls from their Girl Friday, but the book didn’t break any new ground, particularly — nor did it need to.

Noelle’s writing is clean, crisp and descriptive. I could smell the fried dough and taste the cinnamon. I could feel the corn of the maze rubbing against my legs and that was great stuff. I enjoyed her style and, without too many spoilers, I can imagine a sequel is in the works and I will be here for that.

My only personal qualm would be that it could have been more violent, but that is down to taste. I still bathe in the glory of the ’80s, where slashers equaled gratuitous over-the-top gore, nonstop ridiculous violence and a whole lot of nudity and sexual content. That likely wasn’t the audience Noelle was looking for, but if you are expecting that, you should be aware, so you aren’t left wanting.

In summary, The Thicket would make a fun edition to your Fall TBR list.

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