Dead Summit (2011) by Daniel Loubier
Reviewed by Bryan Verhanovitz
Dead Summit begins with a prologue set 50 years earlier from the present day. Two life-long sweethearts are camping in a popular area, enjoying their time together. In the middle of the night the girl finds her boyfriend gone, and things take a turn for the worse when she finds him…
The story proper begins in present day with husband and wife Charlie and Grace on their way to Mt. George, the highest peak in the Northeast, located in New Hampshire. While stopping at the base of the mountain to pick up some last minute supplies, they talk with Roy, the proprietor of the base camp store. Roy tells them about a hiker who fell to his death the previous day and how the hiker's wife was taken away gibbering nonsense about "people in the woods". Roy seems a bit disconcerted about the event, but Charlie and Grace shrug it off and attribute it to Roy being a bit lonely in the isolated area. That night, before starting the hike, Grace has a rather discomforting dream, though the next day Charlie tells her it was just Roy's story that spooked her.
The couple hikes up to the secondary camp, where hikers normally spend the night resting before the final ascent. The local tradition is that each night after dinner the occupants will tell stories, usually about their hiking adventures. All is fine, until Terry, the woman who runs the secondary camp starts telling some scary stories about the history of the local area…
I found Dead Summit to be a great story. The prologue sets the tone for what is to come later. But don't think that I'm giving away the story by saying that, because there is much more to the story than what the prologue reveals. It is the appetizer to the upcoming main course.
The writing was snappy and page turning. Even the breaks in the action were full of suspense and poignant information. The transition section from the normal to the abnormal felt a bit heavy handed, though it was not long enough to sidetrack my attention.
The characterization of the protagonists was done quite well. Their motives and actions were well within the realm of belief when confronted with such a strange situation. Grace did not turn into a shrieking teen from a horror movie and Charlie did not automatically become Rambo. They, and others, acted much like I would expect from a modern group of people thrust into the unknown. This is by far the strength of Dead Summit. Mr. Loubier did not just use stereotypes in his story, but rather acknowledged that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and that in today's world that many people are capable of wrapping their minds' around the unusual. The "proof in the pudding" was when I teared up at some scenes; I was that drawn into the story.
Dead Summit is the prototypical page-turner. I would not have minded a bit more depth in the writing, such as some more descriptive elements of the environment, but I am well satisfied with which the quickness the story unfolds. The story's ending has a nice plausible twist that leaves Mr. Loubier several paths to follow if he wishes to continue this storyline.
I fully recommend this book to any hiking enthusiasts and fans of backwoods horror. The former will not be sleeping well on their next trip and the latter will most likely never go on their first hiking trip.