Of course, having an excellent film adapted from a book doesn't hurt its sales. But Scott Smith's A Simple Plan
was, in its own right, a remarkably assured crime novel with strongly drawn characters and plotting that many another author would kill for. The art of generating suspense with the written word is not easily acquired, but Smith is a master. And now we have The Ruins
, to prove that Smith is no one-trick pony. A decade may have passed since his debut novel, but Smith has not lost an iota of his storytelling panache.
Two young American couples are enjoying a vacation in Cancun, and make friends with Mathias, a German tourist. He and his brother Heinrich had been travelling together, and the latter has disappeared while investigating Mayan ruins with a woman friend. Mathias, concerned over the disappearance of his brother, persuades his tourist friends to help him track down his brother with the aid of a hand-drawn map the latter had left behind. After a punishing journey, the group come to a Mayan village where they encounter a distinctly unfriendly welcome. Leaving the village, they stumble across a hillside festooned with beautiful red flowers. But a Mayan is following them with a gun, and soon a body is encountered, shot full of arrows. As the above might indicate, this is by no means standard thriller territory, and Smith continues to defeat any expectations that readers might bring to his books. After a deceptive start, this turns into a much darker book than A Simple Plan, and actually defies comparisons to the earlier work, so distinctive is this new one. Readers are used to being taken on terrifying journeys, but this one is a humdinger.
"Smith intends to scare the bejabbers out of you, and succeeds .... Does for Mexican vacations what Jaws did for New England beaches in 1975." (Stephen King
"The suspense novel of the year. This is compulsive reading. Scott Smith sets out to frighten and he succeeds brilliantly with this harrowing psychological chiller." (Sunday Telegraph
"It's been more than a decade since Smith's impressive debut, A Simple Plan. The wait has been worth it, with this tense, dense oppressive thriller taking the reader into new dimensions of fear ... Every time you think the book has hit a high in terror, it somehow gets more unbearable." (Guardian
"A tour de force of terror, a novel that seduces, shocks and dares you to keep reading. There's a timeless fable at work here, one that prompts thoughts of Heart of Darkness" (Washington Post
"Bloodcurdlingly horrific ... It's the contract between the familiar and the unspeakable that makes this book so harrowing." (New York Times
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