Twenty-year-old Mattie lives alone with her older husband William in a rustic cabin high on a mountain. While William occasionally goes into town for supplies, Mattie never goes anywhere or sees anyone. They live a very simple life, without any modern technology; Mattie even makes her own clothes by hand. One day they become aware that they are now sharing their mountain with some kind of wild beast, possibly a large bear, and William becomes obsessed with hunting it down and killing it. But what bear sorts bones into neat piles and hangs the remains of its victims from the trees as a warning to stay away from its territory?
Near the Bone starts off as a terrific psychological suspense. Who are Mattie and William, and why have they chosen to live in such a desolate place? William is abusive towards Mattie, particularly when she doesn't do the chores to his satisfaction. When she mentions old memories, he says they are just dreams. Lots of tension and suggestions of gaslighting, and what does William keep locked up in his trunk? The story then shifts into a supernatural thriller with the appearance of a huge beast that is never really described, apart from its huge claws and yellow eyes. While William so pre-occupied with stalking it, can Mattie pluck up enough courage to escape from his tyranny?
Although slightly more gory than the kind of thing I usually read, I really enjoyed Near the Bone. A fast-paced, cat-and-mouse style thriller, I found it completely engrossing and couldn't put it down, particularly towards the end! I think my only complaint would be that it ended fairly abruptly and I'd liked to have known what happened next, particularly regarding Mattie's sister - or maybe I missed that bit, because I was reading so fast! A five-star read, but recommended more towards fans of horror, despite the psychological suspense element.
Thank you to Christina Henry and Titan Books for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.