40) Old Flames
by Jack Ketchum
(2008, Leisure Books, 289 pages).
Not a novel, but two unrelated novellas.
The first of these is the titular Old Flames
, a new work from the one and only Jack Ketchum. Dora has been burned by love one too many times, so she uses Flame Finders, a detective agency off shoot, to seek out and look up her high school boyfriend (about whom she has built a sort of castle in the sky idealization). Enter Jim and his happy family. Dora soon finds herself quite in love all over again, and as one might expect in a horror story, love leads to obsession leads to a messy end.
The second novella is Right to Life
, originally published as a limited edition stand alone by Gauntlet Press. In this one, Sara Foster finds herself in the unenviable position of pregnant with but unable to have the child of her married lover. On her walk up to the clinic (while lover is parking the car), she is abducted by a couple of psychotic Right to Life advocates, who then keep her in a cellar, torture her into submission, and demand that she carry the baby to term. What is already a nightmarish enough scenario is made even more stomach churning when Sara’s kidnappers grow less interested in the politics of abortion protest than in having a slave to use as they see fit. Recalling some of the more icky parts of Ketchum’s infamous The Girl Next Door
(but without the corresponding moral quandary of innocence being slowly corroded), this story (though mercifully short) is... Well, it is what it is. And whether that is "repulsive" or "intriguing" really depends on the individual reader’s taste.
I find that I can never actually recommend Jack Ketchum’s books (the only possible exception to this is the “you killed my dog” revenge story Red
, much better than I have just painted it) because they venture into often brutal, always uncomfortable territory. I cannot really recommend this book either for very different reasons: the first novella is a rather sedate morality tale (with questionable character motivations; I was not sold on the spark sending the character into murderous acts) that reads like a fleshed out (though ultimately flat) stage play, while the second is the author’s more "traditional", exceptionally savage story of human ugliness.
A more in depth Horror Reader review is forthcoming.
Currently Reading: Tower Hill
by Sarah Pinborough and Royal Destiny
by Morgan Howell.