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The Pines

(The Pines Trilogy)

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  770 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Legends linger in the dark places of this world, legends as old as fear itself.

Deep within the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a series of macabre murders draws ever nearer to the isolated farmhouse where a lonely woman struggles to raise her strange, disturbed son. Does some ancient evil prowl the woods? The boy seems to be in league with a presence that makes itself felt in
Paperback, 333 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Leisure Books (first published May 1st 1989)
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3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  770 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Mar 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I hate New Jersey. It all started when I was 11 years old and I made friends with the new girl, Tammy. She was blonde, beautiful, and one of the toughest girls I ever knew. I learned she came from New Jersey. In my mind, the Bronx had to be one of the worst places in the world. For a brief time, David Berkowitz lived with his mother six floors below me. My father got held up twice while selling insurance to people who had nothing to insure. My mother was too scared to ta
mark monday
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Dunbar takes the slow route to get to his horror and i appreciate it! the writing is bleak, cold-eyed yet haunting, evocative - a kind of southern gothic set in the new jersey pine barrens. most characters are portrayed as human insects of three varieties - predatory, on a sad downward spiral, or both. when positive human emotions and interactions come to the forefront, it's almost as if a great battle has been won to allow those rays of humanity their brief moments... the smallest positive gest ...more
Robert Dunbar
Aug 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Yikes! How many editions of this first novel of mine have there been? Thirteen? Seriously?

I repeat: yikes!

What a long, strange trip it's been. Links to reviews, interviews and excerpts can be found at but these are a few of my favorites.

“Dark, foreboding, menacing, eerie … seductive.”
~ The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Not only a superb thriller but a masterpiece of fiction.”
~ Delaware Valley Magazine

“At last, the Jersey Devil has come out of hiding.”
~ Atlant
Mar 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013, e-books
4 Stars

I really enjoyed this horror novel that was brought to life by the amazing setting of the pine forests in good ole New Jersey. This is as much an atmospheric novel as it is a character novel. The twisted pines, the stormy weather, and the swamps and mud all added to the creepiness of this killer thriller. The heroes are typical but I enjoyed them all.

Robert Dunbar’s writing style makes the horror work and brings to life the words printed on the page(or e-screen). The images are detaile
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
The main character here isn’t Athena, Matty, or even the Jersey Devil: it’s the Pine Barrens.

Should they have a Board of Tourism, I assume that board will not be writing Robert Dunbar any thank you letters, since anyone who reads The Pines will do their best to stay as far away from the New Jersey Pine Barrens as humanly possible. When stories warn you not to go into the woods, it’s Dunbar’s pines they’re talking about: dark, unsettling, and full of “monsters” both human and (possibly, arguably)
K.Z. Snow
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
4.6, rounded up.

One of the "grabbiest" first chapters I've read in a long time -- beautifully crafted atmosphere, perfect pacing. I love being creeped out; so far, Dunbar's doing an excellent job of it.


Any writer who can enrich a setting to the point where it becomes a compelling character in and of itself is aces in my book. Why? Because the kind of horror fiction I prefer is largely dependent on environment. So I was thrilled to see the melding of Shirley Jackson, H. P. Lovecraft, and Ja
Arun Divakar
Dec 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Horror fiction does not really need monsters. They take life in the most devious and dangerous place known to us : the human mind. The levels it stoops to and the terror it unleashes can make even the boldest denizen of netherworld pause for a second. On a humorous note, there was this cartoon that the New Yorker published following Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban where the Devil sat on Trump's shoulder and said 'Whoa, Donald - you're scaring me, man."

As long as carbon based bipeds walk this
Rashmi Kris
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-re-read
Wow. WHAT a ride.

I lived briefly in New Jersey, and I could see the woods from my bedroom window. In the daytime I would see deer and rabbit. In the night, I always wondered what secrets the darkness (blackness, more like) held, and of course I thought of the Jersey devil on several occasions. Unfortunately (?), the creepiest thing I ever saw from that window was my neighbor trespassing rather gleefully.

This is by far the BEST horror novel I've ever read that's based on folklore. A masterpiece,
Dark Recesses
Robert Dunbar
Delirium Books (2006)
(Note: This is the author's unabridged edition of the original Leisure edition from 1989)

The end of the 80s saw the implosion of horror as a power in the market place, with the exception of the heavy hitters, like King, Rice, and Koontz. At one point in 1989 there were no less than 45 new horror titles in less than a month from various publishers and imprints hitting the sagging shelves. There were copycats of copycats, and the market was glutted
Amanda Lyons
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever wondered what was out in the woods late at night? Do you live near the pines and know the mournful sound of the wind slipping through those trees as well as the sound of your own breath? Have you ever been to the Pine Barrens or read about the Jersey Devil and all of its other haunts? Well then, you’re going to enjoy this book!

In The Pines we’re taken to the legendary New Jersey Pine Barrens and shown all of their iconic creepiness along with the harsh realities of a rural communit
Jan 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
(Really 3.5--silly silly ratings system. Please read my full-length review at Casual Debris

What is most effective in the novel as a whole is the idea of monsters and monstrosity. We are faced with a legion of candidates pining for the definition of "monster," from a folktale creature to rabid dogs, from "backwards" pineys who drink bathtub gin and neglect their malformed in-bred children to more "civilized" contenders who resent their own offspring. We have a once big city cop who drowns his gui
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This story started off slow, but then I got hooked. I just wanted to get to the end. I am glad that my library had it as ebook form. The Leisure print edition had very miniscule print and I would have hurt my eyes and given myself a migraine. Reading shouldn't do that to a person.

This book mixed up cryptozoology, local myths, and psychic phenomena into one compelling read. Also throw in some gestalt theory and a loving mother who won't give up.

I give this one a five star rating.
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is more horror than expected, all scary and bloody. Not exactly what I thought it would be after “Monsters and Martyrs’ and “Willy.” Took me awhile to get in the mood, then I got really into it. That it turns out that I am reading the series backwards does not help but still fun to see the people from The Streets at a younger time. Matty is really a kid here. This old house in the woods will give you nightmares. Never realized that Jersey was so creepy!!!!!!! But maybe I did.
May 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, monsters
A good example of horror can be achieved through a blend of characters and setting. The Pine Barrens give off such a swampy stench, and its residents hold such an ill-fated course in life, that it's a wonder you can't smell the doom wafting off the pages. Despite the pacing a bit slow at times, and becoming less eager to go camping this summer, I thought this was a fine read.
Kevin Lucia
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Haunting, intriguing - characters with painful lives, trying to make things right and failing...but still trying anyway. Boasts some of the best descriptive paragraphs and passages I've read in awhile.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ahhh! The Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, I know them well and have done pretty much everything there is do in them. I have hunted, fished, crabbed, skinny dipped in the cold water creeks, and have gone on ghost hunts.. As a little kid, the only thing I knew about the Pines was they were a patch of woods we traveled through on our way to Wildwood. As an adult I realized they were so much more, they're a couple hundred thousand square miles of deep woods, salt marshes, deep cedar water creek ...more
Doug Beatty
Dec 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The Pines is a fantastic novel set in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and involves a creature called the Leeds Devil. Mr. Dunbar does a great job setting the stage and the description of the pine barrens are very well done and very creepy. The inhabitants of the barrens are in their own world and it seems inbreeding has not done them any favors, and many of them are challenged in their own unique ways. But they know the stories of the Leeds Devil, and he is very very real.

We follow the travels o
May 04, 2012 rated it it was ok

Robert Dunbar's "The Pines" was unfortunately a disappointment for me after reading a good number of positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. The book never took off for me. Dunbar's descriptions of New Jersey's Pine Barrens and it's unusual inhabitants were too lengthy and dominated the book. Some readers might be ok with that, but I felt too much of the book's depth was spent in this area and not enough on plot development and characterization.

Dunbar introduces a LOT of characters, but only
Ms. Nikki
This read has all the elements of a good horror read; a backwoods town, an outcast, local lore, a monster, and lots of characters to kill off. I found The Pines to be disjointed sometimes; going from one thought to another without any reasoning and from character to character without a point. The dialogue was a bit excessive at times, as it was not beneficial to the progression of the story. A good horror tale with solid writing.
Dec 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have-read
Thoroughly haunting story... well that's an understatement. This book will scare the hell out of you. You will leave the lights on all night. You won't go into the woods alone or at night. Great story with completely fleshed out characters that you care about and a thing, a creature, the Jersey Devil that you WILL be frightened of.
Oh HAVE to read this book. The Pines will blow your shorts off!
Dec 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the best Jersey Devil book I've ever read. I had a friend that wrote a flowery, dark fantasy novel about the Jersey Devil, but Robert's gore and fright-fest blows it out of the water, complete with the vivid imagery of the desolate Pine Barrens.
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
I am not all that familiar with the Jersey Devil legend... other legends have always taken the forefront in my research and reading. But I am aware of the Jersey Devil who haunts the Pine Barrens. Dunbar's novel "The Pines" takes the old tale and adds a new spin on it. The concept is interesting, engaging and filled with quite a few victims who end up all but inside out.

The Short Summary: We follow Athena, Steve, Doris, Matty, and just about everyone else who lives in a small town as people star
Michelle DePaepe
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
When I read the beginning of this book, I was initially frustrated by the number of characters and the uncertainty about where the story was going. However, as I got into it, I became more and more impressed by the intricately designed pastiche of horror vignettes that narrow into a singular story. The scenes are like a quilt of nightmares sewn together and the dark, backwoods characters will linger with you after you put it down. Some reviewers complain about the movie-like scenes. In a B-movie ...more
Uninvited Books
Mar 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Still a favorite review:

“Among the classics of modern horror.”
~ Weird New Jersey Magazine

I mean, come on. For a book about the Jersey Devil? Praise from Weird New Jersey. Doesn't get any better than this.

Apr 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
I did not finish this book. I got to the retelling of the jersey devil legend. nah, I was hoping for something different.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite literary devices and, in my opinion, a hallmark of a truly gifted writer, is to take personification to such a degree that you can manage to make the setting itself the central character in a story. Michael McDowell's Perdido, New York City for William Hjortsberg's brilliant Falling Angel, and a select handful of others have exemplified this and clearly shown its effectiveness, especially in the horror genre. Having just finished The Pines this morning, I am very comfortable a ...more
Heather Muzik
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to agree with another reviewer who said that the main character in this story truly is The Pines. A place that breathes and exists, strangling the lives of those who call it home and taking the lives of those from the outside who dare to trespass.

As a Jersey Girl for a good portion of my life, I am familiar with the Pine Barrens. In middle school we had a class trip to The Pines and spent two freezing cold nights at a camp in the woods surrounded by the trees and pine-needle-strewn sands
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Most of the horror books I read are of the newer hardcore variant. As much as I love them, I mainly read them for their exciting use of imagination. Another reason these books are so exciting is because of their outrageous use of gore. For the same reason more of the modern horror movies are so popular.
But sometimes it's a very nice surprise to stumble upon a book or a movie that wants to terrify you without getting overkill on the gore factor. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre will always be
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When I was 13, I made the leap from Goosebumps to "grown - up" horror books, mostly from John Saul and Steven King. Yet out of the big names/big novels, the one that scared me the most was this book. It wasn't the jersey devil that scared me so much, it was the woods and the creepy Pineys. I grew up in a small town, we all knew everyones name and business. Generations of families grew up in that town, and naturally my friends and I would snicker and make inbreeding jokes. I still think to this d ...more
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviews
For about the first third of the book, I thought of it as an 80s horror movie. It had a really scary opening scene with a girl out in the woods at night being stalked by something. As it progresses, the story really gets interesting. I have to say, the ending really surprised me! The author is good at writing a creepy setting, and I could clearly imagine it with all my senses. The descriptions of the people, "the pineys," really portrayed them as being creepy in a "Deliverance" kind of way, but ...more
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Horror Aficionados : The Pines-Robert Dunbar 46 73 Jun 03, 2015 03:14PM  

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Robert Dunbar is the author of the THE PINES TRILOGY, a series of supernatural thrillers – THE PINES and THE SHORE and THE STREETS. These novels have garnered extremely positive reviews, attracting a great many readers, and the author often blogs about his adventures in the genre world here at Goodreads.

Dunbar has written for television and radio as well as

Other books in the series

The Pines Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Shore (The Pines Trilogy, #2)
  • The Streets (The Pines Trilogy, #3)
“Here, rancid air hangs heavily in a void, its texture thick, liquid, clinging, in a night full of the hot smells of decay.” 2 likes
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