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"Maggie's voice came out in a whisper. 'What . . . what are you going to do?' The springs creaked as he sat on the edge of the bed. 'Everything,' he said"
The small peninsula town of Safe Haven in Wisconsin suited its name well; with only one road in and out it has stayed secluded and desolate while towns around it bustled and profited from tourism dollars. Several times people had tried to encourage growth within the town, talk of widening the road and making the town more attractive to outsiders were usually voted down at town meetings. It seemed the townsfolk enjoyed living in their own isolated community, crime was the exception more than the rule, and everybody knew and looked out for their neighbours. Sadly the secluded nature of the town and its inaccessibility was to become its undoing; when a helicopter crashed in the woods outside town a chain of events were triggered which bought apocalyptical havoc to the streets of Safe Haven. Life - what little of it survived - would never be the same again; whatever caused and subsequently escaped from that helicopter crash was set to alter the world forever, and it was up to a disparate band of townsfolk including an ageing Police Sherriff, a short order waitress, a cowardly fire-fighter, a rotund dog and a monkey called Alan to fight back and try to reclaim the towns streets. A one sided battle at the best of times, made more so when the foe they faced seemed to possess near inhuman traits.
"First pressure. Then pain. The killer sawed his teeth back and forth and shook his head like a dog, but apparently the toe didn't want to come off no matter how violent the movement."
Now it has been said I am very conservative in my reading - I know the Authors I like and rarely deviate from their work. So when I unwrapped Afraid by Jack Kilborn it could be said I was a little underwhelmed at the thought of letting a new writer into my inner sanctum. Thankfully a quick scan of the inside cover spiked my interest sufficiently that I started reading the book before any of the others I received for Christmas. And boy, am I glad I did. Kilborn wastes little time in getting stuck into the action in this book; no sooner are the pages turning than the full horrifying events start to unfold before your eyes. And there is no quarter given as regards blood and gore either, the atrocities metered out to many unfortunate townsfolk leave nothing to the imagination thanks to a gloriously descriptive way with words. Something that often troubles (nay annoys) me in this style of book is the way in which they end - the baddies get defeated and the good guys walk off into the sunset holding hands; With Afraid this formula is squarely turned on its head and given a long hard shake; without wishing to give too much of the story away there are plenty of grizzly ends met - and not always by the people you hope or think deserve it.
" 'This knife is meant for more delicate work, and has no blood groove,' the intruder said. 'You have to twist it to break the suction.' "
I can give Afraid nothing other than the full five stars; for a book to grip me so completely that I cancel a trip to the pub and sit up until 3am to finish it is unheard of. Afraid is that rarest of books within the Mystery/thriller genre - it actually keeps you in suspense until the last word is read, and makes you damn sure to double check the doors are locked after you read it. Few books can elicit such a feeling within me, and few books make me feel a little bereft when I finish them - I literally wanted this book to keep on going forever. If you are in anyway squeamish at the thought of limbs being severed and blood and entrails flying hither and dither then you should probably look elsewhere for you literary fix, but for those of us who like our thriller/horror books to grab us by the lapels and scream the most blood curdling of screams into our face then Afraid is the book to read. Always suspense fuelled, dark as night and occasionally funny - Afraid is like a breath of fresh air to its genre, three hundred plus pages of frightening narrative that doesn't let up until the bitter end. Jack Kilborn is a pseudonym of J.A. Konrath, and sadly Afraid seems to be the only book he has written under this pen name, but I shall certainly be checking out his work as Konrath - this is an Author I am hoping to read much more from in the coming years.