Review: The Street Between the Pines

I. Love. This. Book. And if you’re looking for a great psychological thriller for 2023, this is it.

A strange creature lurks between the pines of Forest Street.

Since the deadly DUI that ruined his life, Curtis Reynolds has long since struggled with sleep deprivation, debt, a failing marriage, and, frankly, justifying his own existence. But when his elderly neighbor is murdered, the Gulf War Veteran returns home to Forest Street, where a dangerous encounter sends him spiraling.

Battling insomnia and PTSD induced visions, Curtis begins an investigation of a mysterious monster, falling down a rabbit hole of folk mythology, government conspiracy, and ghosts from his past that threaten to destroy his fragile psyche and, possibly, all he holds dear.

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 satisfying 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.

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