by Kaaron Warren
Published by Angry Robot, 2009.
On the back cover of this book are the following instructions to booksellers. File under; Horror, Real-life Terror, Damaged Lives, Family Secrets, Beyond Death. There’s your review right there, if you want to know what this book is about read that list again. Thank you and goodnight….whats that? You want to know if it’s any good…OK then read on.
This is the story of Stevie a serial killer, again this is emblazoned on the rear cover so I am not giving anything away here, but when you start reading the book you are introduced to Stevie as a fairly normal person. It is the slow revelation that there is much more here than initially meets the eye that makes this a clever book.
Written in the first person it is Stevie’s autobiographical account of how she first experienced death. That’s right death, and at the moment of death what does she experience. Well its not a brilliant light, it’s not a flashback of her life and it’s certainly not a bunch of white gowned angels playing harps. What she actually experiences is a group of people staring at her, a group of people she knows, a group of people she has slighted. Fascinated by this experience she endeavours to repeat it both from her own point of view and also from others. She needs to find out if others share this experience.
So what follows are a series of gruesome encounters on the edge of darkness. Slowly, at the same time we get to see how she has developed these dark traits and gradually a gruesome family history is revealed.
This really is a dark and disturbing book and it’s all the better for that. Kaaron Warren has cleverly created a tale which gradually reveals true horror. Stevie the protagonist (and also the antagonist) is richly drawn. A truly scary, manipulative character that is real enough that you could imagine she might be your next door neighbour (come to think of it they do a lot of late night gardening!).
The cold, calculated pursuit of the death experience is harrowing but often Stevie is dealing with other flawed characters so actually the reader feels a bit of empathy for the serial killer. Definitely not for the faint-hearted this is raw horror at it’s best. The scenes at the point of death when Stevie meets the Slights are wonderfully written and genuinely disturbing.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this work, Kaaron Warren is a name to watch.
Rating 4 out of 5