The Woods All Black


English language

Published 2024 by Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom.

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4 stars (1 review)

The Woods All Black is equal parts historical horror, trans romance, and blood-soaked revenge, all set in 1920s Appalachia. Leslie Bruin is assigned to the backwoods township of Spar Creek by the Frontier Nursing Service, under its usual mandate: vaccinate the flock, birth babies, and weather the judgements of churchy locals who look at him and see a failed woman. Forged in the fires of the Western Front and reborn in the cafes of Paris, Leslie believes he can handle whatever is thrown at him--but Spar Creek holds a darkness beyond his nightmares.

Something ugly festers within the local congregation, and its malice has focused on a young person they insist is an unruly tomboy who must be brought to heel. Violence is bubbling when Leslie arrives, ready to spill over, and he'll have to act fast if he intends to be of use. But the hills enfolding Spar Creek …

2 editions

The Woods All Black

4 stars

The Woods All Black is a queer and trans 1920's story about a nurse named Leslie being called out to help the small Appalachian town of Spar Creek. The initial foreground of trying to provide services to chilly and creepy Christian townsfolk is backgrounded by both gothic and body horror, as well as some romance.

One element of this book that I thought was done well is that it deals with Leslie's wartime trauma (and homophobia trauma). In this aspect, it echoes a lot of the things I liked about T. Kingfisher's What Feasts at Night, about somebody trying to understand what they can trust about their own perceptions in a strange and disturbing environment.

I love the queer solidarity in this book, about people trying to be themselves while being torn down by the airquotes community around them. The feeling of being somewhere unwelcoming and magnetically being pulled …