Archive for May, 2015

SatansFanClub

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Omnium Gatherum

Length: 241 Pages

Release Date: April 7, 2014

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

Mark Kirkbride’s Satan’s Fan Club is a novel that follows two twins, James and Louise Glavier, as they struggle to carve out their own identities under their religious parent’s roof. The twins go out for a night on the town to a costume party held by one of James’ friends at the nightclub Hell. It is there they meet an enigmatic man known as Nick, who appears to them dressed as the devil. Nick mentions he was brought in by police as a suspect in the series of killings occurring in the twins’ neighborhood. Nick offers them the chance  to be free of the oppression they face on a daily basis and  to be a part of something larger than themselves by joining Satan’s Fan Club. He tells them the only way to join is to commit a crime specifically tailored for them, one that is so sinister, it rattles the twins. The twins find themselves drawn to his charisma and go from being interested in catching him to learning from him.

Once they are presented with this offer, the twins struggle with the decision of what they should do – commit a horrific crime that would forever alter their lives or pretend the whole thing never happened. After meeting Nick and keeping up with the murders that occur with increasing frequency, they uncover a startling pattern –  the bodies of the victims are being found closer and closer to The End House. The twins begin to panic and wonder – is this just an extraordinary coincidence or is Nick sending them an ominous message? The truth is something far stranger and one that both James, Louise, and the readers don’t see coming.

I started reading Satan’s Fan Club expecting a more straightforward horror tale that incorporated elements of the supernatural, but it is more of a psychological thriller. While there is a serial killer that figures prominently in the story, the focus is mainly on the Glavier family’s descent into madness and the changes that plague them and force them to question their beliefs. This is a hard novel to review because while the plot at the heart of Satan’s Fan Club was interesting and made me want to read until the end, I just couldn’t get swept up in the story. The characters are emotionally complex and each struggles with the identities they portray to each other and society, but there was little about them that made me emotionally invested in their fates. The timeline of the novel is also a little confusing as often many months pass and it is hard to notice, making it hard to establish a sense of time and place in the novel.

While Satan’s Fan Club is an entertaining story, the novel occasionally hits lulls with the different subplots. There is the dad’s secrets and struggle to keep his family together, the strange and complex relationship of twins James and Louise, and the mystery behind the youngest daughter Harriet’s unseen friend. These different threads play an essential role in the story and have some exciting moments, but they occasionally drag and sap the tension the author has managed to build up.

Despite a few issues, Satan’s Fan Club is a solid read for those who are fans of psychological thrillers and who won’t be uncomfortable with the taboo subject matter the author tackles. Kirkbride’s writing style possesses a dark poetry that I enjoyed and while Satan’s Fan Club didn’t hook me like I had hoped, I look forward to checking out more of his work in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5

LINKS:

Mark Kirkbride’s Official Website

Omnium Gatherum’s Official Website

Purchase Satan’s Fan Club on Amazon

disintegration

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Random House Alibi

Length: 223 Pages

Release Date: May 26, 2015

eARC provided by Random House Alibi and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

While straight up horror will probably always be my first love, I have come to enjoy neo-noir in large part thanks to the stellar anthology Richard Thomas put together for Dark House Press, The New Black. So, when I was offered a chance to review Thomas’ latest novel Disintegration, I jumped at the opportunity.

Disintegration tells the story of an unnamed narrator whose life is in shambles. He lives in a spartan apartment, unsure of what day it is and dependent on a steady diet of pills and booze to help try to erase the despair that consumes him. His sole mission in life, the only thing that gets him outside of his apartment, is the jobs he receives from a mysterious Russian gangster known only as Vlad. He gives him jobs by simply sliding an envelope under his door. Before meeting Vlad, the narrator was living on the streets or in shelters like a nomad, stealing when he has to and left with barely 20 bucks in his pocket. This desperation is what makes him the perfect employee for Vlad, someone who is hardened by the crummy hand life has dealt them and willing to do things that no sane person would ever dream of.

For the purpose of this review, I will give the narrator the name of “Everyman”, a name he himself uses when describing his occupation. Everyman is a hit-man of sorts, though not all of his targets end up dead necessarily. He dresses in an inconspicuous way, blending into any social situation, the sort of person you wouldn’t be able to notice if you tried. And yet, he bears markings that instantly tell his life story and seem to serve as a total disregard to his own rule. He is covered in tattoos – black letters on his knuckles, wings on his back and a variety of other seemingly random pictures. The tattoos aren’t means of self-expression or individuality, they serve as a reminder of the things he has done and the lives he has taken.

As we follow Everyman, we witness him taking on a slew of “clients” – a pedophile, a man beating his dog in public, a drunk driver responsible for killing kids. These jobs offer him an escape from the trauma that haunts his life and the chance to deal out a form of justice that was denied to him. He is content living out this life, simply getting from one day to the next until a series of unsettling events occur that make him question everything. What is real and what isn’t? Is he being double crossed? As he begins to piece together the truth about his former life and his employer, he finds himself racing against time for answers before he ends up dead.

The one thing I loved most about this novel is the complex characterization of the narrator. At first glance, he seems like a nihilistic robot, hellbent on carrying out retribution and justice. But he is more complex than that. Thomas uses brief scenes to show that Everyman was not always a hardened badass who cracks skulls for a living; he was an average Joe, someone who could have been your neighbor or relative or friend. Flashes of a suburban life, memories of tender moments with his children that he barely remembers or is actively trying to forget show he is something more than a mindless lackey taking jobs for a man he hardly knows. It is these brief snapshots of his past that get the reader to care about Everyman and his journey for the truth despite the mistakes he has made in his past.

Disintegration falls a little outside of my typical reading habits, but Thomas’ action-packed journey through the seedy underbelly of Chicago held me captivated from the first page. Thomas’ writing is lean and possesses a gritty yet poetic quality and while the novel is full of darkness, despair and violence, you can’t help but be entranced by the dark beauty of it. Disintegration’s combination of interesting characters, a mind-bending mystery and breakneck pacing make this an essential read for mystery fans. This novel will definitely stick with me for a long time and I am eagerly awaiting The Breaker, the second installment in the Windy City Dark Mystery series!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Richard Thomas’ Official Website

Random House Alibi’s Official Website

Purchase Disintegration on Amazon