The Land Below by William Meikle

The Land Below by William Meikle
Publisher: Severed Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A treasure hunt into the deepest cave system in Europe takes a turn for the worst.

Now rather than treasure it is survival that is at the forefront of the spelunkers’ thoughts. But their attempt to escape out of the dark deep places is thwarted.

Men are not at home in the depths. But there are things that are, pale terrifying things.

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Things red in tooth and claw.

Ed has talked his hotheaded brother Thomas into investing some of their family fortune into looking for hidden treasure left by a Teutonic Knight deep in a cave. Ed had carefully researched the two-page map he found in an old manuscript and is sure something has been buried where they are heading, but Thomas is merely interested in the fame and glory. When Ed hires on Daniel Garland – a washed up army Captain – for protection is causes friction with Thomas who is certain they have no need for a guard. As they meet a final member who joins their small team, their adventure takes them deeper beneath the earth they find there are far more dangers and monsters than any of them expected.

I am a massive fan of William Meikle’s S-Squad series and have read a number of his other books and enjoyed them to varying levels as well. I’m also often a sucker for a “expedition goes into the cave and finds monster that eat the party” style of book and was happy to give this one a whirl. I was delighted by what I found and enjoyed the full length story immensely.

I struggled a little to discover exactly which historical time period (or perhaps some “close but alternate” style of reality) this was set in as that aspect of the story was kept rather vague. It certainly isn’t a modern in the sense there were no cell phones or GPS and I’m leaning towards somewhere Victorian-ish as their headlamps were from encased flame rather than battery powered. Still, the time-period setting is not critical to the story and I feel readers who enjoy both past and present monster and adventure style stories should equally enjoy this book.

One thing I feel William Meikle absolutely excels in is his action/adventure and “big toothy monsters” plotlines. And this story has both these in spades. While I enjoyed the tension and interactions between Ed, Stefan, Thomas and Daniel it was the way they approached the cave and the monsters they faced within it that really captured my attention and had me up late into the evening turning the pages. I feel Meikle had an exceptional pace throughout the story and as the reader I felt the rising tension as the four main characters explored deeper into the caves. There was equal parts wonder and worry as the danger became more clear but – as you’d expect – the only way out was to continue going forwards.

Thrilling and just a little bit scary this was a brilliant story and one I greatly enjoyed. If there is a subsequent story after this I am very eager for it and will absolutely be purchasing it promptly. I can also very strongly recommend that anyone who enjoys this story try out Meikle’s S-Squad series which has many of the same strong positive points (start with “Infestation” and then move right along to “Operation: Antarctica”). With excellent characters that were unique and vividly different, some scary and amazing monsters, a grand adventure under the earth and a whole bunch of tension this story was excellently written and I feel should appeal to a wide range of readers.

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