With his latest novel, Autumn Bleeds Into Winter, the redoubtable Jeff Strand proves that there is still life left in the coming-of-age horror novel.

Yeah, everyone seems to be doing it in the wake of Stranger Things and King's It movies. They did it with Indian Burial Grounds. They did it with Vampires. They did it with Serial Killers. They did it with Zombies. Now writers and filmmakers are running the nostalgic youth horror story into the dirt. I always loved these kind of stories, and I will forever cite It, Summer of Night, Boy's Life, The Bottoms, and others as huge favorites. Too much, however, is too much.

I get it to a degree. Youth and fear go together perfectly. I just hate it when things get too trendy. I've started to avoid most of the kids-in-jeopardy books out there.

That brings me to Jeff Strand and Autumn Bleeds Into Winter. Jeff is more of a pro than many of the new kids in the graveyard, and he understands the construction of a novel. He is good with characters and he knows how to use pacing to generate suspense. Sometimes he uses a bit too much humor for my liking, but when he mostly plays it straight, he is a hell of a storyteller.

Autumn Bleeds Into Winter starts off with a fairly typical scenario. Curtis Black is a chubby, insecure, not-particularly-popular teen. Much like your average horror reader was. His best friend has disappeared, along with a few other kids in his Alaskan town. Curtis witnessed the abduction, and when telling the police about it yields no results, he decides to take matters into his own hands and confront the culprit.

That would basically be the whole story for some books. This is the first chapter of Autumn Bleeds Into Winter. As you may expect, the confrontation does not go as planned, and it sets off a series of catastrophic events.

Autumn Bleeds into Winter is a fast, yet compelling thriller. Most chapters end with a small cliffhanger, and I found it difficult to keep from jumping right in to the next one. The story builds to a fever pitch, and the novel has a satisfying conclusion.

My previous favorite Strand book was the tense Pressure, but I think Autumn Bleeds Into Winter has taken its place. I loved it, and I don't believe he has ever written a better book.

Written by Mark Sieber

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