A scout troop comprising five adolescent boys and their adult leader plan to spend the weekend on an uninhabited islet off the coast of their home town. On their first night they are visited by an emaciated man begging for food. But the man is not merely hungry.
Despite the teenage characters, this is proper grown-up horror, not a YA novel. Imagine Stephen King’s darkest work with Eli Roth throwing in some ideas. It’s nasty, tense, and perfectly paced with a brilliantly handled gradual build of dread.
Cutter does not skimp on the gruesome details, and some truly hideous things happen, but what makes it work is his depiction of the boys’ states of mind. He’s in no hurry and allows us to spend time with the characters, getting to know their relationships and how the group dynamic works and evolves. They’re certainly not all nice, but they are real people – we fear for them when they’re in danger and we feel their pain when they suffer.
I was several times reminded of Lord of the Flies, not merely by the situation but in the tone Cutter takes and the themes he addresses. There are even characters who seem directly to parallel Ralph, Jack and Piggy. But The Troop is ultimately more upbeat and a bit more fun.
Overall, a well written, satisfyingly gruesome and thoroughly enjoyable horror novel.