The Troop

the troopPublished: 2014
Author: Nick Cutter

A terrifying book which confirms all my anti-camping prejudices


When I moved from Surrey to Somerset I was pounced upon almost immediately and asked if I would like to become a Beaver Scout leader. I was a little dubious – despite having spent three years as a Brownie Leader, Beavers were a completely different kettle of fish. For a start everyone in this particular colony were little boys. At the risk of sounding like a petulant 10 year old, little boys are horrible. And Scouting really, really likes camping. As is, going out into the woods and sleeping in a tent. Have they met me? My idea of roughing it is staying in a hotel which only has four stars. Despite my misgivings I’ve loved being a Beaver Leader. Little boys are actually quite adorable and Beavers don’t have to do outside camping. It’s all going swimmingly. Or at least it was until I read Nick Cutter’s horror novel, The Troop – a book which confirms all my worst fears about camping.

Tim Riggs, a small-town GP and scout leader takes his troop of five boys on an annual camping trip to a small island near Prince Edward Island (known of course as the home of Anne Shirley of Green Gables fame). Here the boys are supposed to learn to work together, survive without technology and enjoy themselves, but this year’s trip is interrupted by the arrival of a severely emaciated, ravenously hungry man who is clearly suffering from a catastrophic illness. An illness which soon spreads to the rest of the few inhabitants of the island. Interspersed with the events on the island is extracts from newspaper stories, speeches and inquiries from after the event. These allow the reader to fully understand the events unfolding on the island.

I don’t normally read horror stories, I don’t know why not but like sci-fi/fantasy I’ve always just assumed that it isn’t my cup of tea. This book could absolutely change my mind. It’s absolutely terrifying, partly because of its plausibility and partly because not all of the threat comes from the illness which is raging on the island. As the normal rules break down the personality flaws of some of the boys come to the fore including one boy’s dangerous predilection for violence and inflicting pain. For me, the threat of the boys being forced to turn on one another was almost more frightening than their possible exposure to the fatal disease. I often find that real horror comes from the behaviour of humans rather than some external force and Cutter plays on this particular fear wonderfully.

It’s a fairly gruesome book, the impact of the illness is graphically explained but it never feels as though gory details are being included merely for shock value. Arguably there’s nothing new here – one of the few horror stories I’ve read is The Stand and there are definite shades of that here and while reading The Troop I was very aware of The Lord of the Flies. The similarities are striking, from the small group of boys being stranded on an island right down to the overweight nerd we all want to see win the day.

I squeaked and squirmed my way through The Troop, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be picking up more horror in the future thanks in large part to how much I liked this book. If you’re a big fan of horror you may find it lacks originality however I’m sure there’s enough here for horror fans and novices alike. I’m doubtful about going to Beavers tonight though…

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.


  1. I love my boys, but the idea of looking after a whole group of Beavers fills me with dread – glad to hear you enjoy it. I have massive admiration for you!
    I didn’t think I liked horror until I accidentally read some last week, but now I’ve read it I think I might try some more. This sounds like just the thing! Thanks for drawing it to my attention.

    • It’s not so bad – at least I get to hand them back after an hour. :-)

      I think this is only the third horror novel I’ve read but will probably pick up another one soon on the back of it.

  2. I like to read horror occasionally and this looks good.

Speak Your Mind