The Cutlip brothers — Frank the town sheriff, and Adam the professor of zoology — feature prominently in The Clearing by Thomas Rydder. They think themselves well armed against anything Nature can throw at them in the quiet wooded hillsides of Pennsylvania. But if what faces them out there is natural, it’s not a form of Nature they’ve ever encountered before…
Here’s an extract from early in the book when they have yet to realize the danger that hunts them.
They emerged onto the sidewalk, where Adam Cutlip opened the door to his SUV and reached into the rear seat. “Annie here hasn’t left me down yet,” he boasted, handing his brother a huge revolver.
Frank hefted it and sighted down the barrel. “Geez, what do you do with this thing, hunt bear?”
“I have, actually, but mostly it’s just for protection. She’s a .44 magnum, and with the scope I have for it I can hit a mouse 100 yards away. And what I hit stays hit, bro.”
“All well and good, but you could still get it in a wringer if you come up against the whole pack.”
Adam chuckled disdainfully. “Now brother, don’t you worry your pretty little head. One discharge from this baby and those canines will run until they hit Canada. I’ll be fine. I’ll have my cell phone, too.”
“Yippee. Hard to use a cell phone when you’re running for your life.”
“Relax, will you? Wolves are nocturnal. Now, I’m going to go over to the Benningers’ again, to see if everything is okay. I’ll set up a camera over on the trail there, where we found the tracks. Going to do the same thing over at the Dankas’. Then I’m going to swing north and go behind the old Ackerman place. It’s lousy with game trails, so I’ll set up a couple more cameras there.”
Frank frowned, unimpressed. “You just keep a sharp eye out. Better yet, give me a call on every hour to let me know you’re safe.”
Adam slapped his brother’s shoulder affectionately. “Once a Marine, always a Marine, eh? Very well, sir!” A passerby jumped and circled him warily as he came to attention and snapped what passed as a salute. “I shall do as you request. Radio checks once an hour on the hour! Over and out!”
“Asshole.” Frank grinned and climbed into his Bronco. As he pulled out, Adam looked after the receding police car, his forehead furrowed with worry he hadn’t shared with his big brother.
The Clearing launches in paperback and eBook editions on March 1st. You can see some early comments and reviews about the book on Goodreads here.