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I don’t read many horror novels these days, but there was something about HUSK that called to me. Part of the “something” was author Dave Zeltserman, who always finds a way to put a twist on everything he writes, even as he moves effortlessly among various subgenres in the thriller field. This is especially true of THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD, as well as the film-adapted SMALL CRIMES and OUTSOURCED.

HUSK respects the reader. It has its moments of violence, but they are not gratuitous. They easily could have been, given that this is a novel about clans of humanoids that live in isolated areas and make occasional forays among the rest of us. These excursions are not benevolent, as these folks survive on human flesh. They are not cannibals, as they are apparently somewhat different from us biologically, though the end result is the same (at least for us). The “husk” of the title refers to one of these clans generally and to Charlie Husk specifically.

"HUSK may be Zeltserman’s best book to date.... Many of the twists and turns are saved for the final third of the novel, but they come hard, fast and heavy, right up to the last sentence, which is one of the best I have read this year."

Charlie is the narrator of the piece. When we meet him, he is hanging out at a rest stop on the Massachusetts Turnpike, looking for likely individuals to overpower, tie up and transport back to his tribe in New Hampshire. After a false start or two, he rescues a damsel in distress with the intent of making her the first of his successes for the current trip.

An odd thing happens, though. Charlie finds the young woman, a college student named Jill Zemler, attractive in a manner other than he might ordinarily appreciate. Consequently, he cannot take her back to his people, so instead he accompanies her to her apartment in New York City, where he has never been. Charlie has had a somewhat isolated life, so he is unfamiliar with many of the things that the rest of us unconsciously take for granted. Jill is charmed by Charlie as well, especially his gallant attitude, and chalks up the rest of his awkward social skills (or lack thereof) to being from New Hampshire.

You can take the boy out of the Husk, but you can’t take the Husk out of the boy, and soon enough Charlie is craving some good old-fashioned human meat. Of course there is no shortage of that in New York, and as much as Charlie tries to control himself, he still avails himself of the opportunity to fang down, if you will. He also makes a couple of interesting discoveries: there are others of his kind in New York, and there is a way to control his hunger, which he finds out quite by accident. What Charlie doesn’t learn until very late in the game is that he is putting himself and Jill in great danger, a danger that manifests itself near the conclusion and from which there is seemingly no escape.

HUSK may be Zeltserman’s best book to date. Charlie’s narrative is a bit stilted, enough so that we realize from the jump that the boy is not quite right. There’s a touch of humor here and there --- particularly when Zeltserman subtly inserts himself into the story for just a moment or two --- but it’s sparingly and deftly applied. Many of the twists and turns are saved for the final third of the novel, but they come hard, fast and heavy, right up to the last sentence, which is one of the best I have read this year. Don’t bother looking at it first, as it will make little sense unless you read what has gone before. You should definitely do that.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 21, 2018

by Dave Zeltserman

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Horror
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Severn House Publishers
  • ISBN-10: 0727888021
  • ISBN-13: 9780727888020