Bonechiller by Graham McNamee

Bonechiller coverIt’s been a day of spring blizzards here on the prairies, and after five hours without electricity, something with lots of snow seemed apropos…

Danny and his dad are in the middle of nowhere. His dad’s been retreating from the world ever since Danny’s mom died, and he and Danny have recently moved from the big city to a a small, northern Ontario town. Danny is on his way home late at night and he gets the feeling he’s being watched. He starts to run, and when he looks back, there is this huge, white, albino-ish creature chasing him, all hairless and creepy looking. It knocks him down, and the last hing he remembers before passing out is seeing its weird pointed tongue coming at him.

When he comes to, there’s a little blue dot on the back of his hand, like from a pen, but no bite marks, no tracks, no monster. He must have imagined the whole thing, right? It must have been a big dog or something and he must have hit his head.

BUT. He starts having weird dream. And the one guy from school who was hospitalized for a mysterious infection kinda went crazy and ran away and now they can’t find him. Then his friend Pike is out ice-fishing with his brother Howie. When Pike comes in to get donuts and coffee, they hear screaming, and ice cracking. SOMETHING REALLY HEAVY has broken the ice and Howie has fallen in. there is rescue and emergency rooms… but he has this blue dot on his neck…

And then the two of them start sharing nightmares of ice and cold and being stalked by a giant albino creature.

And their body chemistry is changing–they can’t tolerate heat, are most comfortable in the extreme cold, and are really sensitive to light, and keep seeing this THING in their dreams…

And of course, Howie does some research and tracks down a history of disappearances over really cold winters…

And then Danny’s sort-girlfriend Ash’s Ojibwe dad starts telling him stories about the wendigo

Oh man, this was a thrill ride and a half! It’s a combination of monster story plus suspense, with the extremes of a wilderness survival story, with a hefty dose of folklore in the backstory, and that had me hooked. The cliche about Canadian literature is that you can tell it’s Can Lit because the landscape is a character in and of itself. Graham Macnamee, your Canadianness is showing, to excellent effect! There’s a monster after Danny, but the weather could kill him just as easily. And what takes this book out of the realm of just another thriller are how the characters are all fully realized people in their own right and not htere just to push the plot along. Danny’s got his own tensions and issues, and so do his friends. I especially loved tough girl Ash. Plus, I am a sucker for stories that incorporate folklore into them, so I found the riff on the wendigo mythology especially cool.

If you’re feeling brave, read this one on a cold January night–or save it for a sticky hot August afternoon, just for that cold chill down the back of your neck….

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