Sacrificial Animals

St. Martin’s. Aug. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781250328243. $29. HORROR
DEBUT Nick Morrow is 43, living in New York City, and working as a literary critic. This life is a far cry from his childhood spent in the shadow of a cruel father on a 1,000-acre family farm in Nebraska. When his father reaches out to let Nick know he is dying, Nick encourages his estranged brother Joshua (who was disowned when he married Emilia, a woman of Chinese descent) to join him on a trip back home. Told from Nick’s point of view across two timeframes, the present and when he was 13, this novel presents a contemplatively paced supernatural horror tale, centering family, trauma, and revenge, with unease infused into every detail. Readers will follow Nick as the foreboding details build, knowing full well that the tightly coiled tension will eventually explode; when it does, they will be left gasping in awe.
VERDICT Pedersen’s debut skillfully balances character and atmosphere. Recommend to readers who like creepy, methodically paced stories that focus on unease, such as the work of Kevin Brockmeier. Also a good pick for those who enjoy tales that use mythology in a revenge plot, like The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones.
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