Joseph A. Citro,
The Gore
(University Press of New England, 2000)
originally published
as The Unseen
(Warner, 1990)

It's a refreshing change in the horror genre when "gore" refers to something other than blood and viscera. In The Gore, it's is an area of uninhabited land in northern Vermont that was created by a colonial surveyor's mistake. It's rugged, thick and untamed. Heck, anything could live there without anyone knowing.

And something, apparently, does.

This novel by Joseph A. Citro combines a bit of New England folklore with elements of mystery and superstition. Is something unnatural, or even supernatural, at work here? We don't know, at least not 'til the end, and Citro keeps readers guessing, but without revealing all of the clues until he's ready.

The story begins when Claude Lavigne walks into Roger Newton's bar with a tale of seeing a shapeshifting creature in the gore. Newton's curiosity is piqued, sure, but he doesn't take it too seriously until Lavigne kills himself soon after. Then, old man Harley Spooner appears at the University of Vermont with rocks bearing a strange symbol. But someone -- or something -- seems unhappy that the stones were disturbed. When Lavigne's son convinces pal Stacy Drew to go with him into the woods to learn what his father saw -- shortly after Newton hiked into the gore to find the missing Spooner -- it quickly becomes clear outsiders aren't wanted there.

Citro, a folklorist of some note, also proves to be a novelist of no small talent. The Gore is a well-crafted story with strong, believable characters and circumstances that often are not what they seem. The book is filled with misdirections that had me thinking it was going one way, then another, before Citro handed me an ending that I never could have guessed. And some scenes throughout make for truly spooky reading.

I hope to read more from Citro, in both his fiction and non-fiction veins. But the New England Tourism Board should keep an eye on this guy -- he might make people too scared to visit.

by Tom Knapp
28 January 2006

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