This short story was the first piece of writing that I read on my new Kindle. And what a way to break it in … I couldn’t put it down. December Nightmare walks that fine thread that all good suspense does – the thread that tells you just enough to make you breathless, but not enough that you can figure out where the story’s headed.
Then there were the deer. Oh, the deer … and I won’t tell you more than that. You’ll just have to read it to find out what I mean.
Plot: A familiar, and creepy pretext: four teenagers in a car who decide to go down an alternative route in the wintertime. Then the strange stuff starts happening. Again here, as with all suspense-style reviews, I find myself torn because I don’t want to give away too much. So I’ll stick to lighter details. We get several different POVs. Some writers do different POVs that all feel the same. Not the case with this story. Each is well-done in the sense that you feel that you’re really reading a different person’s take on the story, not one author’s voice shining through four characters.
Setting: The creepiest, snowiest backroad you can imagine. As it is the heart of wintertime here where I live, I found myself staring out at the cold and the snow and imagining these scenes. It’s because of the vividness of Reich’s writing. Small aspects of the story are cast in exquisite detail: “A heavy sigh rushed from her lips like a plume of smoke and framed her face in dark fog” and “The liquid mixed with mud and splattered the truck like a Jackson Pollack painting” are examples.
Characters: Well-developed, unique. We get Cassie, who struck me as the most likable of the bunch; her friend Mary, who struck me as rather mousy; Mary’s sister Denise, who was the second most unlikable of the bunch; and Denise’s boyfriend James who was absolutely the most unlikable. Likable or not, I cared about the characters. I may have wanted one of them in particular to come across some misfortune … but I was very engaged in his or her misfortune!
Style: In short stories, real estate counts. Reich is aware of this, and she makes the most of every word. Nothing is wasted here.
Overall Impression: Five stars. An engaging, frightening short story that draws on Civil War history/urban legend-American mythology to make chills run down your spine. Read it, but be prepared to have it stick in your memory!