The Red Tree - Caitlín R. Kiernan Rating: between 3.0 and 3.5

I'm going to echo some of the other reviewers on this site and agree that this is one of Kiernan's better novels (though all of her stuff, that I've read, is good and highly recommended). As is true of her earlier work, it's never certain that what the narrator narrates is what happens, and our narrator's (Sarah Crowe) mental and physical capacities are always in doubt. As she often concedes in the course of this first-person tale.

It reminds me of Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes in that every supernatural event can be explained by the machinations of the unconscious mind. Kiernan's vision is far bleaker but both authors are masters (mistresses?) of mood setting and evocative writing. Though I should mention that, IMO, this is Kiernan's least lyrical novel. There's almost none of her, at times, ecstatic/euphoric use of words; I kept thinking that she was holding herself back as I read.

Regardless of the "truth" of Sarah Crowe's experiences, for lovers of Lovecraft, Machen and other horror authors who value the psychological power of terror over gore, I'd recommend The Red Tree. If your idea of "horror" is graphic descriptions of butchery and the "Saw" franchise, you'll be bored out of your mind and probably should avoid this novel.