Book Review: Old Country by Matt Query and Harrison Query
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (July 26, 2022)
Length: 352 pages
Author Information: Website
I’ve always loved the mountains and joke all the time that if I ever win the lottery, I’d buy a ranch out west and spend my days raising horses or something. But damn, Old Country freaked me out so bad, I’ve never been more glad that I live in East Coast suburbia, far from where all the creepy shit in this book takes place. If I were the characters, I’d probably never step foot outside my front door again.
The story follows Marine veteran Harry Blakemore and his wife Sasha, who have left their old lives behind in order to pursue their dream of living off the land in rural country. As the book begins, the couple has just purchased a house nestled in the beautiful wilderness of Teton Valley, Idaho—forty acres of meadow and forest just to themselves and their beloved golden retriever Dash.
At first, the Blakemores are thrilled. Their new home is everything they’ve ever wanted, and their closest neighbors, Dan and Lucy Steiner, are also the nicest, sweetest people who are more than willing to help them get settled. That is, until the Steiners come bearing some strange advice. They claim they are not alone in this valley, that the land is also home to a malevolent spirit that will manifest itself in different ways each season, and unless Harry and Sasha do exactly as they are instructed, bad things will happen. This initially angers Harry, who thinks the Steiners are pulling some sick prank. Refusing to listen further, he throws the old couple off his property, intent to put everything they told him out of his mind. But then, when spring arrives, the first manifestation of the evil spirit materializes exactly as foretold. Harry and Sasha realize everything the Steiners had told them was true, but unfortunately, it’s much too late for any regrets.
What a fun ride this was! All I can I say it, the plot was simple, yet effective. Think of Old Country as a sort of haunted house story, except the setting is a vast expanse of picturesque mountainous wilderness. The authors juxtapose the gorgeous environment with truly disconcerting scenarios of horror, which has the desired effect of making these moments even more frightening and anxiety-inducing. As the year progresses, each new season only brings fresh terrors and more dangerous and extreme situations for Harry and Sasha to endure.
The straightforwardness and simplicity of the story also worked in its favor. This is not a long book, and it is pretty much all meat and no fat. And a good thing too because this limited the length of the frequent flashbacks and made them a little less distracting. Harry was a Marine deployed to Afghanistan, and his experiences there led to PTSD. Until he met Sasha, his life had been stuck in a downward spiral. The authors did a good job establishing the couple’s relationship, convincing the reader of the love they have for each other and making you believe they are an inseparable team. This could only have been achieved by these snippets of backstory, so I was happy we had them.
If anything, the characters might have been written too well, and I sometimes found Harry’s personality to be a bit too much. While his stubbornness and difficult attitude made sense given the things he has seen and lived through, it often became a crutch for the story, with the plot filled with questionable decisions on his part, many of which just seemed to be there to push things along.
Still, on the whole, Old Country was a very enjoyable horror novel, especially impressive considering it started as a Reddit story on r/nosleep, and I’m encouraged to know that nowadays more and more great stories can come from unexpected places. Horror lovers, you will want to check this one out.