The book takes place in 1920 and features Frank Nicols, a man who inherited an estate in a rural part of Georgian farmland. Part of this estate is an old plantation which previously belonged to his cruel great-grandfather. Frank struggles with a number of things, none of which is more enormous than his physical and mental scars from violent trench warfare in World War I. His dreams are tormented by the cruelties of war and his waking hours are spent with his fiancé Eudora.
As Frank learns the quirks of a sleepy nearby town, he stumbles upon a bizarre local tradition. Every season the town sends pigs across the river to a vast, rural forest. Frank is puzzled about why this ritual takes place and what is on the other side of the river in this dark forest. Further, he learns that during this time most of the town's locals board up their doors and windows.
Buehlman's story extends into this frightening segment where Frank, eager to find answers, wanders deep into the forest in search of answers. There he finds a naked boy. When the boy's sinister smile appears, it shocks him to see that the child's teeth are sharpened. From that moment on, Buehlman's propulsive plot plunges readers into this horrific town secret.
Weighing in at roughly 360 pages, Those Across the River had me glued to each and every word. I just could not put this book down, each page overflowing with rich storytelling that had so much character development and compelling background. From the military flashbacks to prior relationships, Buehlman makes readers truly care about the fates of these characters. The central mystery of what afflicts this small Georgian town is worth the cost of entry. Highly recommended.
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