Plot/Idea: The Street Between the Pines hosts an engrossing plot with shades of Stephen King. The author immediately hooks the readers with a flawed protagonist whose normal life suddenly starts going sideways.
Prose: The author is a skilled and talented writer, great with a turn of the phrase and with detail. The writing is layered and the storytelling top notch.
Originality: Alo brings a unique sensibility to the pages, finely interweaving paranormal circumstances with mystery and a lead character's own grappling with trauma and a fractured sense of self and purpose.
Character/Execution: Also masterfully develops characters, with Curtis's tenuous grasp on reality casting the whole of the circumstances and the monster he trails into captivating uncertainty.
Date Submitted: August 14, 2023
Something strange and terrible stirs in Frank Cavanaugh’s basement, in J.J. Alo’s psychological-thriller, The Street Between the Pines.
The giant hole at the bottom of Frank’s house wasn’t there before. Something so very ugly and dangerous is down there. Something with bright, glowing eyes. Adrenalin pumps through Frank’s aging body as he scrambles for the exit. Behind him, a low gurgling growl.
In suburban Connecticut, Iraqi war veteran Curtis is still fighting to surviving on multiple fronts. Curtis struggles with severe PTSD, visions of the war that continually overwhelm him. Now, after being released from jail after a manslaughter conviction, having caused a fatal auto accident, he struggles to put his life together. All the while, he navigates a shaky relationship with his wife Amy, and a complex connection to his autistic son Wes.
If that weren’t enough, Curtis’s house will soon be condemned for an unspecified government project being built on a nearby piece of land.
These elements whip together into a story that is rich in detail even as it delivers punch after horrific punch. We feel Curtis’ remorse for the accident that cost the life of a young woman, and the weight of being an ex-convict who must cling to a job that keeps him away from his family for weeks at a time. He shows the texture of life in his suburban community as it once was, but strange events are eating away at this social fabric. From unexplained deaths to hordes of cats seemingly guided along the streets by a group intelligence, this once safe and secure life is melting away.
Curtis accidentally finds out more than he should have about the clandestine government laboratory that threatens him and his neighbors with its eminent domain authority. Is it a scientific facility researching how the natural world—animals, insects, fish, even the creation of new species—might provide mankind with groundbreaking medicines and technologies? Or is it a place of terrible experimentation, perhaps even the source of the killings, the unknown thing capable of ripping people to pieces as if they were cellophane?
Can Curtis even trust his own eyes? His traumatic visions invade his nights and his days, leaving him unable to distinguish between what is or isn’t real.
Do not expect to solve all the mysteries of this book until the last line of the last page. And no cheating! This novel will scratch readers’ horror itch like the writing of H.P. Lovecraft or modern-day master Stephen King. If you want a non-stop, spine-tingling thriller, the kind that keeps you up late at night jumping at every unknown noise in your home, then The Street Between the Pines will deliver in spades.
AGulf War veteran struggles to keep his family together—and his sanity intact—when faced with multiple crises in Alo’s horror novel.
Curtis Reynolds is not a happy man. An overworked third-shift laborer who spends weeks, sometimes months, away from his wife and child, Reynolds is summoned home when a hurricane traveling up the East Coast is predicted to travel dangerously near his family’s Connecticut house, which is located on a river. He dreads returning to an estranged wife and a crumbling marriage, a child with special needs, a pile of bills, a flooded basement, and a house that’s in the process of being lost to eminent domain due to a mysterious project funded by the government. Suffering from past war trauma (“The surrounding men, including himself, lay speckled in shrapnel, surrounded by a smoldering blur of twisted metal”) as well as nightmares associated with a woman he killed while driving drunk years earlier, Reynolds is not prepared for what he discovers on his street, already being battered by the storm: brutally murdered neighbors, destroyed houses, roaming colonies of feral cats, and a nightmarish beast stuck in his basement that simply can’t be real. With his sanity possibly slipping, Reynolds investigates and finds revelations in an abandoned neighborhood across the river. There’s a lot to like here: Alo’s writing is focused and fluid, creating a fast-paced and action-packed narrative that never flags. His adept ability to intertwine multiple threads of tension—the raging storm, PTSD-induced hallucinations, nightmarish creatures, marital conflict, and secret government installations—keeps the intensity impressively high throughout, weaving a thick tapestry of terror. One quibble: The overuse of description in places sometimes slows the narrative momentum. Still, the jaw-dropping plot twists will keep readers on the edges of their seats.
A page-turning horror exploring (and adding to) New England folklore and myth.
A new, chilling horror fiction series by author J. J. Alo.
The residents of Forest Street, Norwich, Connecticut, have received offers from a pharmaceutical company to buy out their homes. Resident, Amy Reynolds, is separated from her husband, Curtis, who is working away for a telecommunications company in New Hampshire. With financial struggles, and the impending break-up of the marriage, Amy and Curtis are considering the offer. When Amy calls Curtis and asks him to return home immediately, Curtis travels back to Connecticut. He discovers that his neighbour, Frank Cavanaugh, has been found dead, brutally mutilated in his basement. As Curtis secures the house in preparation for a tropical storm, he discovers another dead body, decapitated, and discarded by the shoreline. The body is identified as local man, Ronny Haverhill. When the police learn that Ronny owes Curtis a significant amount of money, he becomes a potential suspect in his murder.
As the storm hits Norwich, the Reynolds’ home is badly damaged, and Curtis and Amy find a monster in their flooded basement. The beast chases the couple, but they manage to escape unharmed. Curtis thinks the monster is a Norwich Norwaukus, a creature believed to have roamed the woods in southeast Connecticut in the 1960’s, killing and mutilating farm animals. Curtis investigates the creature and discovers a hidden research facility in the woods, an entire colony of Norwaukus’, and a connection to the pharmaceutical company that wants to buy out Forest Street.
The Street Between the Pines is a new horror fiction series by author Joe Alo about a family and community ravaged by a dangerous creature lurking underground. This is a gripping, original horror story set in a small town in Connecticut, with a touch of folklore, science fiction, and government conspiracy. The book follows the Reynolds family, as they try to navigate their troubled past, whilst an ominous presence lurks in their basement. The author slowly builds tension and suspense as Curtis uncovers the terrifying truth about the creature and the pharmaceutical company intent on purchasing his home.
The book successfully blends the chilling elements of horror, with the complexity of family dynamics. There is plenty of blood, guts, and gore, which will appeal to ardent fans of horror fiction, and enough family drama, to appeal to those who enjoy more realistic horror.
Star rating: 5 Stars
Summary: A gripping horror novel, leaving readers wondering what they might do if they found a monster living in their basement.
J.J. Alo, where have you been all my life?
The Street Between the Pines is a delightful psychological thriller that has been written in the most wonderful way.
If you've followed my reviews, you know my standard is pretty high, so I want to start with the mechanics. Mr. Alo has done his work. This manuscript is clean, flows well, and I found myself breezing through this book without any obstacles for my editor brain. Absolutely fantastic.
As for the story, in a word: engaging.
The story doesn't start with the main character, but though the involved character meets his demise, I was invested in the story's intricate nuance. The anticipation is palpable, every step of the way, and I wanted to see how the next chapter unfolded. (Yes, this is a 'just one more chapter and then it's morning' book)
The main character, Curtis, is completely relatable (I'm a veteran with lots of veteran friends) and realistic. He goes through the rather human process of acknowledging his shortcomings, struggling with what would be required to overcome them, and dealing with this otherworldly monster threatening his neighborhood on top of everything. His interactions with the other characters, especially his estranged wife Amy, only add to the overall realness of this story.
There are some key signs of the appearance of the monster, and every time it happened, I felt myself tensing up as I read. Like watching a horror movie and yelling at the screen for the characters to run or look behind them.
The twists are divine and intertwined so well I wondered how I had missed the signs I saw so clearly now. I won't spoil the story for you, but simply leave this review with a heartfelt recommendation that you pick this up.
Especially if you love cats.
Well done, Mr. Alo. Well done, indeed.
In The Street Between the Pines by J.J. Alo, readers are plunged into a thrilling tale of mystery, horror, and psychological turmoil. Curtis Reynolds, a Gulf War Veteran haunted by his own demons, finds himself on a treacherous journey through the shadows of Forest Street, where a dark and deadly secret resides. Alo's writing is captivating, drawing readers into the depths of Curtis' troubled mind. The author seamlessly weaves together elements of horror and suspense, creating an atmosphere that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. The pacing is excellent, with each chapter unraveling a new layer of the mystery, heightening the tension and anticipation. From the first page, the reader becomes acutely aware that something is wrong — if not with Curtis, it is with the world around him.
One of the standout features of The Street Between the Pines is the author's ability to intricately describe the characters and settings, offering details that are fascinating. Alo skillfully introduces us to a diverse cast of characters, each with their own secrets and motivations. From the elderly neighbor who meets a tragic end to the enigmatic creature lurking in the woods, from Amy to Curtis, the author's attention to detail brings these characters to life, making them feel both relatable and hauntingly real. Fans of horror will find themselves enraptured by The Street Between the Pines. It channels the atmospheric and supernatural elements found in classics like Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Alo's book seamlessly blends psychological horror with elements of folklore and government conspiracy, creating a unique and gripping reading experience. This book is a brilliant yet unsettling exploration of trauma, nightmares, and the thin line between reality and the surreal. J.J. Alo's masterful storytelling and gripping plot make it a must-read for fans of horror and psychological thrillers.