Book Review: WENDIGO by Vaughn Hardacker

Notebook, pencil, Wendigo book, and coffee cup

During a major west-coast heatwave, temps in the 90s, and energy conservation necessitating the turning off of the air conditioner after 4 pm, I plunged into Vaughn Hardacker’s frozen Maine landscape to follow the hunt for a supernatural creature–the Wendigo, an Algonquin manitou (god), monstrous and ravenous for human flesh.

Hardacker’s prose sucked me in immediately with vivid descriptions, immediacy, and action. There is little navel-gazing here. Wendigo is an adventure story. The reader travels along snow-covered, north woods logging roads, hunkers down beneath frozen pine boughs with a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Crime Investigator named John Bear, and feels the burn of strong coffee percolated on a blazing woodstove while snow and sleet swirl outside the windows of sturdy–and not so sturdy–homes. It’s cold up there at the Crown of Maine!

Even though it’s not my usual reading fare, I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. Some of the descriptions wigged me out with the gore, but the bloody scenes definitely added to my desire to see the Wendigo destroyed. Hardacker puts the reader into the monster’s head, as well. No, I did not feel sorry for it, but understanding it added to the tension.

Family, friend, and community relations figured into the storylines and added the warmth of humanity to the basic “man-hunt” (monster-hunt?) plot. We meet dour general store proprietors, a clan of hunters/trappers suspicious of government interference, north woods law enforcement, and even a Bangor journalist nosing around for a story and finding a little romance with John Bear.

If you enjoy Paul Doiron’s fiction, outdoorsy stories, hunting and hiking and other adventure stories, and supernatural tales best told around a blazing campfire, give this one a read.

5/5 for solid prose, great pacing, steadily-increased tension, vivid setting, and a satisfying ending.

Hardacker is a 2018 Maine Literary Awards Finalist. He blogs with Maine Crime Writers and his next book is due out in January 2023 by Encircle Publications.

Book cover with fall leaves, a female figure looking to the side,, and a steaming coffee cup
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