Monday, June 08, 2009

AFRAID by Jack Kilborn

Safe Haven, Wisconsin is a small town that likes it privacy. It chose, years ago, to forgo the economic benefits of tourism in favor of the peaceful and quiet existence of rural life. The town only has one major road, and a County Sheriff who patrols on a part-time basis. Unfortunately the peace and tranquility of Safe Haven explode in an instant one crisp autumn night when a helicopter crashes and explodes near the town.

The local volunteer fire department responds, as does the County Sheriff, but neither of the entities is prepared for what has been unleashed on Safe Haven. The town is quickly shutdown—roadblocks at each end of town—and a group of raving killers is set loose on the populace. The novel opens with the slow and painful torture of an elderly couple and swiftly moves between several characters, including the Sheriff, the firefighters, an old woman and a young boy, a waitress, a scientist and his pet monkey, an eccentric old crook, and the killers.

Afraid is an explosion of a novel. It opens hard and fast, and never lets up. The plot is crisp, and what it lacks in believability, it makes up for in taut and forward-looking action and suspense. The characters are well-drawn and fulfill their roles, within the story, with precision. The prose is straight forward and literate in a thriller sense—

“Streng wrapped his fingers around her wrist, and for a moment his body stretched between Ajax and his cousin’s wife. Then the giant jerked hard, breaking Streng’s grip, making his face skip across the rug and causing a friction burn on his cheek. He was hauled into the hallway, past the staircase—so close yet so out of reach—and into Sal’s bedroom, where Ajax lifted him by his leg and held him upside down like a little girl’s doll.

The strength of the novel is its ability to envelope the reader with its pacing, action, and terror. The bad guys are worse than one can imagine, and the good guys are seemingly doomed without hope of redemption or rescue. It is reminiscent of 1980s and 1990s Dean Koontz—it particularly reminded me of Koontz’s Dark Rivers of the Heart. It also has more than a semblance of the work of Richard Laymon, less the sex.

Afraid is a novel that will appeal to anyone who likes stories with a high measure of action and a quick and tricky plot. It is a throw back in the horror-thriller genre, in that the writing is tight and there is not an ounce of padding. It is pure action and suspense, and more fun than two modern thrillers combined.

A NOTE. Jack Kilborn is a pseudonym for J.A. Konrath. Konrath is the author of the Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels mystery novels.

1 comment:

Rabid Fox said...

Nice review. You've got me a little more psyched to read this now. Good thing I gots a copy in the mail. :)