Savage Woods – Mary SanGiovanni

Every time I read a Mary SanGiovanni book I remember how much I love them. I’m also reminded of how fun it is when she introduces something I’ve either never heard of or know very little about, generating enough interest in me that I decide I need to become an expert in whatever the something is.

In Inside the Asylum, this was tulpas. I’d never heard of them but by the end of the book I’d read everything I could find about them. Years later, they came up in some random TV episode. The person sitting next to me asked if I knew what that word was. Naturally, I proceeded to tell them all about tulpas, including some handy hints for how to make one if they were so inclined.

While I was trying to find my way out of the Savage Woods, I began reading about tree spirits. When I wasn’t busy trying to pronounce Kèkpëchehëlat.

This is my first Mary SanGiovanni read that isn’t a Kathy Ryan book (note to self: read the rest of Mary’s books!). I kept thinking that the subject matter was right up Kathy’s alley and loved that her research had a cameo, even though she didn’t.

Brothers Todd and Kenny decide Nilhollow is the perfect place for their camping trip. They don’t believe the “clichéd stuff about cursed grounds, unexplained hiker deaths and disappearances, lights in the sky, that sort of thing.”

They’re also dismissive about the reports of the missing people “turning up inside-out and hanging from trees”. What brothers Todd and Kenny don’t realise is that they’re first chapter characters and, as such, they’re almost certainly destined to stop breathing before the main characters show up.

Something about Nilhollow was just … all wrong.

Which brings me to Julia Russo, who’s trying to escape her abusive ex-boyfriend, Darren. Darren, who clearly doesn’t understand the purpose of a restraining order, decides to run Julia off the road. In the wrong part of the woods.

Officer Pete Grainger, a New Jersey state trooper, knows Julia’s situation well and has developed some not especially professional feelings for her. Of course, when he learns she’s in trouble, Grainge responds. So do a whole gaggle of law enforcement corpses in the making.

This book is an absolute splatterfest and I loved every squishy, crunchy, rending moment. I flew through it, cheering on the trees as they painted the woods red. I’m more convinced than ever that I need to read everything Mary SanGiovanni ever writes.

“You need to warn the others that whatever slept in these woods is awake now, and it wants blood.”

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide, domestic abuse, stalking and suicidal ideation.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington Books, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nilhollow – six-hundred-plus acres of haunted woods in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens – is the stuff of urban legend. Amid tales of tree spirits and all-powerful forest gods are frightening accounts of hikers who went insane right before taking their own lives. It is here that Julia Russo flees when her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road … here that she vanishes without a trace.

State Trooper Peter Grainger has witnessed unspeakable things that have broken other men. But he has to find Julia and can’t turn back now. Every step takes him closer to an ugliness that won’t be appeased – a centuries-old, devouring hatred rising up to eviscerate humankind. Waiting, feeding, surviving. It’s unstoppable. And its time has come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s