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by Jeremy Bates
The first book of Bates' Scariest Places on Earth series. Though the stories are fictional, they are all set in real places that are creepy or scary in some way.
Suicide Forest is just outside of Tokyo, Japan and is actually called Aokigahara Forest, but commonly known as Suicide Forest because it's a place where people go to die. Bodies are often found hanging from trees. There are stories about restless spirits haunting the forest, as you would expect in such a place.
A group of friends decide to explore the forest when weather reports divert them from their original plan of climbing Mount Fuji. They end up camping there, after running into some other people doing the same thing. They encounter natural hazards in the forest in their quest to find morbid evidence of the forest's reputation and there is some antagonism between Ethan and his girlfriend's male friend, John Scott, who came along results in typical male posturing and competition.
When they find the abandoned belongings of a woman, mysterious screams are heard in the night and one of their companions is found hanging dead from a tree in the morning, the situation quickly turns into one of survival in a massive forest where they are lost and running out of supplies.
The book is very well written and scary to the point that I had to stop after a few chapters at a time. Horror enthusiasts will love it! The foreign setting and concerns over whether the authorities would respond in the way those in the characters' own countries would lends a sense of immediacy and disorientation in an already engrossing story.
The explanation for what was happening is close enough to plausible to make a good story as well, but one question was left unanswered and I'm docking half a star for that. Otherwise this is an easy 5 star read.