Eyes of Sleeping Children by D.A. Butcher Review

D.A. Butcher comes out swinging hard with this stunning debut novel. Eyes of Sleeping Children is a psychological thriller set in the 1930’s and takes place in a depression hit Kansas that is about to bare the brunt of a giant dust storm.

The focus of this story falls squarely upon the Lockhart family, and specifically upon the father Louis. As the storm begins to attack their small family farm the Lockhart’s seek shelter in their cellar.

Eyes of Sleeping Children Cover

Yet the storm is but the beginning of this families tragedies, after awakening from a troubled night of sleep Louis finds that his son, Jesse, is missing, yet there is neither a sign of forced entry or that the young boy has left the house.

Who, or possibly what, is to blame? While Louis looks for an answer within the reality he understands, his wife begins to break down and lay the blame squarely upon a figure from the realm of nightmares, The Sandman.

Louis must work quickly if he has any hope of ever seeing his son again, he sets out on a journey that will delve into the past, and into secrets long since lost to time.

But that’s enough about the book’s plot, I really would not want to ruin this one for you.

This is a daring, but well executed, debut novel that takes a number of different genres and themes and makes them all coalesce brilliantly as the story comes to its climax.

At times this feels like a locked room thriller, while at other times it delves wonderfully into some psychological twisted world that sends shivers racing up and down your spine. And yet through all of that it somehow manages to blend and balance it very nicely with a depression era set family and their day to day struggles and drama.

The story is told through the eyes and mind of Louis Lockhart, and for the most part he is an engaging and interesting character that we as outside readers can easily empathise with. And while there are a supporting cast of mostly interesting characters it is with Louis that we are firmly embedded, both narratively and emotionally.


As Louis frantically begins his hunt to find his missing son the book ratchets up a notch and becomes a zealous race to unravel the mysteries and discover the truth lurking in the shadows. Over time though it is Louis himself who begins to unravel and whose mind deteriorates, while this gives for some excellent character focus and really brings Louis alive and fleshes out his characterisations, it also slows down the pace of the book at points to little more than a crawl. While this is not a major issue it does make the book feel imbalanced.

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However, as the story enters its final acts it rekindles the fire that had burned so brightly at its opening. In fact by the final pages this book had burnt not only itself out but me as well, there are some disturbing scenes throughout this novel that have stayed with me long after the final word has fluttered its way through my mind.

The twists and turns that lead up to the grand finale are mind bindingly well conceived and that climax, boy was that a treat to behold. Throughout most of the novel I thought I knew the truth, I thought I was an all knowing reader, but I was very much mistaken, Butcher had more than a few tricks up his sleeve to leave me feeling the fool.


Indeed so much of this book has stayed so vividly with me that while writing this review I feel like I have only just put it down when in reality I finished this book week ago, and have read many others since then.

Not only is the story well conceived it is also very well written, Butcher has the skills and talents of a much more seasoned writer.

There are a couple of negative points though, as with any book. I think there are a few pacing errors that make the book feel unbalanced, it almost feels like there are two books wearing the trench coat of one sometimes. The dialogue can at times feel a little stilted, and I would say there are a few too many metaphors and similes used which can slow down the pace of the book somewhat, but this is me being overly pedantic and attempting to find something to balance this review.

Overall this is easily one of the best debut novels I have ever read, indeed it is one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read period, and I will no doubt be diving back into again soon, and I sincerely implore all of you to do the same.


Rating: 10 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out Eyes of Sleeping Children for yourself, and I highly recommend you do, you can find it over on Amazon.


Fiona’s Guardians by Dan Klefstad Review

I love vampires and I’ve have written about them more than once on this website, so I loved it when Fiona’s Guardians dropped into our inbox. This unique and intriguing novel was just the thing to devour over a free weekend.

Daniel is more dedicated to his job than most people are, and certainly far more than he should be. Daniel’s job is his life, and it’s an unusual life to say the least. You see Daniel is the guardian of a 250 year old vampire named Fiona.

Daniel’s main job is pretty straightforward actually, to supply Fiona with 10 pints of blood every day. He also needs to manage a bunch of investments to fund this, but its really the acquisition of the blood that’s his main focus.

This is certainly no easy feat but when Fiona becomes the target of a secret group of vatican vampire hunters (called Mors Strigae) its gets even more difficult, not to mention deadly.

This is an interesting story which for the most part fully delivers on what it promises. The idea of exploring the day to day activities of a modern day vampire assistant is intriguing and is easily the most fleshed out and well defined aspect of the novel. Everything about the job is explored and given purpose and meaning within the larger context of the story. Daniel on the other hand is not, he felt a little forgotten and lost within the confines of his job.

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Though I suppose that was intentional, for all intents and purposes he was his job, his whole life revolved around Fiona and what he had to do to guard her and service her needs. Yet it still would have been nice to know him more as a character and feel some sort of connection with him, but I understand why he was explored so little.

As for the plotline itself I was invested enough to read to the end quickly, but I also found it a little convoluted with numerous perspectives from various characters, I think a more limited narrative structure and focus would have been beneficial.

At points I found myself losing my grip on the story as I attempted to correlate the new perspective with what I had already read. When you couple this flowing between perspectives with different time periods it can be a little difficult to keep everything straight in ones head.

This sadly also moves focus away from Daniel and Fiona, which is a shame because this is their story and sometimes they feel sidelined by anothers narrative.

With that said though this was an enjoyable read that I would heartily recommend for any horror or vampire fans, doubly so if you love both. It is a fun and exciting read that could do with a polish but then so could we all.


Rating: 8 out of 10.

You can get a copy of Fiona’s Guardians from Amazon.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King Review

Second novels are difficult. You have numerous expectations on your shoulders, both from fans of your first book and from your publishers. The fans of your first book want to also enjoy your second novel, and the publishers want you to also widen your audience, that’s a lot of pressure.

It must have been a bit of shock to both then when Stephen King suddenly changed from the abuse-terror and semi-realisitc plot of Carrie to vampires for his followup. I bet there were a few concerned looks in the publishers offices.

It was a good job that Salems Lot is a damn fine novel.

What’s surprising about Salem’s Lot is its slow build up, which even at its most long winded is still enjoyable to read. A good portion of the book is taken up with introducing us to its main character, Jerusalem’s Lot (Salem to the locals).

Yep you read that right, it’s the town itself that’s the star of the show. This was a kind of warm up for what King would later do to his more famous fictional towns of Derry and Castle Rock.

He gives us vivid descriptions, details and nuances of the town, then he slowly and methodically populates it with a host of characters so unique and outlandish as to rival any daytime soap opera. Every facet of human life can be found within the boundary lines of Salem’s Lot, and they all want to know who the stranger is that just moved into town.

This stranger is a writer called Ben Mears and he grew up in the titular town, and let’s just say he has some bad memories of it. In particular of the Marsten house, which looms across the rest of the town from a nearby hill.

Ben has returned to his hometown to work on his next novel, the details of which we never discover, except beyond the fact that it involves “the recurrent power of evil”, and the creepy gothic house atop the hill.

As you’d expect Ben gets straight to stomping around his old town, giving King ample opportunity to expand the details of the main setting. Ben doesn’t do a lot of writing, instead he meets and befriends a wild collection of townsfolk, including Father Callahan, a priest with a drinking problem, a kid who loves old horror films, and Susan a girl who loves his writing skills.

This total disregard for his main objective allows King to spend half the novel simply establishing the town and the world it inhabits. And as for the actual vampires, well you won’t be seeing them just yet.

They are hinted at though, and the biggest hint comes in the form of Mr Straker, who along with an absent Mr Barlow has opened up an antique shop in the town. They have also bought the Marsten house to live in while they set up their business.

When a young boy dies under mysterious circumstances the only person who pays any real attention outside of his family is the inept local lawman.

As a reader the townsfolk are frustrating, they’re all so wrapped up in their own lives that they cannot see the inevitable death and destruction that is barrelling quickly towards them.

Around the halfway mark though the proverbial shit finally hits the fan. More people begin to die, babies come back to life and seek blood instead of milk. Nighttime is no longer safe.

The first half of the novel is slow and deliberately plodding, it lulls you into a false sense of security so that when the vampires eventually show themselves you are whisked off into a whirlwind of action, it barely lets you take a breathe.

This action heavy portion of the novel takes place over just two days and sees Ben and his new friends try to end the quickly spreading vampire threat.

When I first read this book years ago I didn’t like the slow first part and I loved the action heavy finale. Now though, for whatever reason, its the opening that intrigues me the most.

This is a slow opening for a novel, make no mistakes, this is a drip feed of a build-up, but boy is it worth it. King imbues every passage with impending dread, and when the action finally unfolds it is a real payoff.

This isn’t the greatest vampire novel ever written, for me Bram Stoker’s masterpiece still holds the crown over everything else, but it is certainly one of the most entertaining. It takes the monstrous creature, puts it in a small town and sits back to watch the blood flow, and flow it most certainly does.

I highly recommend Salem’s Lot to previous fans of Kings other novels and to anyone interested in the horror or vampire genres. If you don’t like slow burning books though I’d recommend staying clear.


Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

You can grab a copy of Salem’s Lot from Amazon.

Dracula by Bram Stoker Review

Let’s return and look at the novel where the legend began, Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Dracula isn’t just a book, not anymore anyway. Dracula is a brand, it is a sweeping, broad, stereotyping name that conjures up characters with countless components and interpretations. So after writing a rather in-depth essay on the changing sexualization of vampires I was compelled to return to the beginning of the vampires literary journey, I therefore dived right back into Bram Stoker’s masterpiece so I could once again see how this famous character began.

Going back to Dracula after the deluge of modern vampire iterations is quite fascinating. For instance Dracula does not suffer burning pain from the sunlight as most modern vampires do. This does make reading Dracula difficult though as we have to throw most of our modern beliefs about the mythical creature out of the window, if we do not do so it can be difficult to engage with the novel.

It is also sad that the books big events, which would have been dramatic plot twists to readers of Stoker’s era, are easily predictable in the modern age, which of course diminishes their impact.

Yet being a predictable and already well known story does give the novel a sense of dramatic irony and adds to the underlying themes of ignored prophesies and that of a predetermined fate.

If you’ve never read Dracula before the novel contains enough details and plot points you’ll be unaware of thanks to the modern day changes to his character and story, this allows a first time reader to predict but still enjoy the subtle differences of the novel. They may know what’s to come in Jonathan Harker’s dreary approach to the castle but there’s also enough new elements to keep some mystery alive.

But enough about why it’s still worth checking out the original novel even if you already know the story, let’s get on with discussing the book itself.

Dracula opens with Jonathan Harker making his journey through Transylvania to Count Dracula’s castle. He is warned by locals again and again to avoid the Count, to flee and return to his own life, but of course he pays them no heed.

The build up to the first meeting with Dracula is tense and harrowing, perhaps more so because the modern audience already knows that the seemingly amiable host is anything but pleasant.

The first part of the book is devoted to the exploration of dread, Jonathan slowly realises that his host is a creature of utter evil. This part of the book is brimming with paranoia and a feeling of the unknowable. It is told entirely through Harker’s journal entries, this adds a new level of dread as we get to witness first hand the cracking of Jonathan’s psyche as he connects more and more of the castles terrors with the Count. This method of storytelling makes the reader a more active participant in the fear and paranoia voiced by Harker.

While the first part of the novel is designated for this emotional torment this does mean it lacks the action heavy punch the modern reader may expect from the genre. Yet Dracula’s emotional and psychological hold over the reader ensures it rarely becomes as slow and tedious as other books of the time are prone to do.


There are times, particularly in the middle, where Dracula does flag a little however. Stoker spends a lot of time on correspondence between our two female heroes Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray. These correspondence talk a lot about everyday Victorian life, and while it is done in beautifully curated prose, it’s also tedious in comparison to the novel’s opening. While you’re thinking about Jonathan and his fate, you are left to read about the countryside and English weather. Thankfully though it isn’t long before the novel begins in earnest.

When reading Dracula again it was interesting to note the manner in which it is told, the use of journal entries and letters creates a ‘found-footage’ vibe akin to modern day horror films like the Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. This manner of narrative creates a unique form of foreboding and dread which makes Dracula an emotional and fearful read even for those already aware of the overarching plot-line.

Dracula’s use of letters and the personal words contained therein allow the reader to understand and empathise with characters more than traditional narrative devices would, we get to see and feel their inner thoughts as they struggle against this monster.

Each character in Dracula is well crafted and believable, they all have separate personalities and quirks which play out across the story in numerous ways.

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An exploration of the Vampire and its Sexuality

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As for the story itself, well its heartbreaking, it’s full of emotion as the characters deal with life, love, death, horror, all of which are beautifully realised with Stoker’s prose.

There are many themes explored within these pages, with love, religion, and death being just a few. This book opens your mind with new questions in every chapter, and it leaves you thinking about its numerous themes for days after it’s gone back on the shelf.

Dracula is one of the first books to explore and bring to life the vampire, and it has gone on to spawn many an imitation, but it is still the best novel in the genre and Dracula is still the King of the vampires.

This is a must read for anyone, if you’ve never read it before I’d recommend you change that immediately.


Rating: 9 out of 10.

You can grab a copy from Amazon, the kindle edition is just 49p.

On Ghosts by Mary Shelley Review

When I tell you the name Mary Shelly what do you immediately think of?

If you are anything like me then the countless remakes of the much loved and brilliant Frankenstein will be paramount in your mind at the mere mention of her name. Which is why it’s little wonder that her other novels remain almost unknown.

Is it perhaps because her other books dont hold the same financial incentives? I’m sure it is yes. Is it because they aren’t quite so shocking and beautifully crafted, a little I think yes. Frankenstein will always be her pinnacle, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the rest, far from it.

Yet this is less a story and more of an essay, let’s just start out by clearing that up. As such it consists of a few stories that surround her argument, some like that of the Englishman or Italian are really compelling, while others feel more stifled and contrived.

Shelley’s overall exploration of ghosts and the ethereal is compelling at its base level and yet is elevated to another realm entirely thanks to her prowess with the rhetoric. This is an intriguing read even when it is at it’s most absurd, and it strays into that territory more than once.

This is not Shelley at her Frankenstein best, though it is not meant to be. This is not quite a fiction novel and not quite a non-fiction essay, it sits uncomfortably somewhere betwixt the two.

It is a interesting read but sadly not one to ever revisit.


Rating: 8 out of 10.

If you’d like to check out On Ghosts for yourself it’s available on Amazon.

Cell Review

Clayton Riddell was practically skipping down the street in Boston when the event that would come to be known as the PULSE took place.

As is the norm with horror fiction Clayton starts the novel feeling good, very good in fact. He’s just sold his first graphic novel and was heading back to Maine to reconcile with his estranged wife Sharon.

A lady lifts a cell phone to her ear and suddenly sinks her teeth into her friend’s neck. Blood erupts like a geyser. Further along the street a man bites the head off a dog, a plane comes plummeting from the sky and the streets ran red with freshly spilled blood.

Clay seeks safety in his hotel, here he finds another man, Tom, and a fifteen year old girl who’s being attacked by her own mother. Our hero grabs a metal spike and rams it into the crazed woman’s carotid artery.

Our three heroes head out of the city in the cover of darkness and head north, passing countless unspeakable horrors in their way, all of which Stwphen King is more than happy to describe in vivid detail.

The adventure continues with drastic fatalities along the way and a conclusion left up to the readers mind, suffice to say this is not King at his very best.

If you’ve read a bunch of other King novels you’ll see a lot of recycled ideas as you make your way through Cells small scale quest also makes for a tiring read, though I think that’s King’s intention as he paints us a possible future of two wildly different outcomes.

Cell is about survival but it’s also about a war, a war with two sides that will give no mercy or quarter to the other, a war that will decide the fate of humanity.

I liked the storyline of Cell and its action was visceral and had an emotional punch like few others, but they were few and far between. This is a slow book and one that needed an extra edit to take away the unnecessary fat. It could also have done with a rewrite to make some of the characters less annoying.

Overall it’s a decent introduction into King’s writing, it was after all what first got me into the horror genius, but you must remember he’s written far better than this. Then again he’s written far worse too.

Frankenstein Review

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (most commonly referred to simply as Frankenstein) by Mary Shelley is an old classic of Gothic literature.

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (most commonly referred to simply as Frankenstein) by Mary Shelley is an old classic of Gothic literature.

This is a novel about a young hardworking man called Victor, who, in his haste to fulfill his ambition of creating his own imitation of life, brings about the ultimate destruction on those he holds most dear.

While Victor begins this unnatural journey filled with optimism about the potential scientific advancements his work will create, he is ultimately left with nothing but hatred and loathing for his own creation.

Frankenstein may be a classic Gothic horror story on the surface but within those lines lies a deep and poignant exploration of what it truly means to be human. What is it that makes Victor human while his creation is derided by society? Shelley purposefully gives the creature no name to show he does not belong, that he is not meant to be.

Had Shelley left us with nothing but Victor’s view point perhaps our impressions of his ‘monster’ would be the same as his. Perhaps we too would call for the unnatural creations ultimate destruction. Yet she doesn’t, she gives us a look at the creatures perspective, and from that we see the lonely tortured soul that it is, and while it commits monstrous acts it is ultimately Victor who must answer for those crimes. It was his arrogance and naked ambition that has created all of this.

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This is a horror book on the surface and a sad melancholy one on the inside. The exploration of relationship between creator and creation is tear jerking in its complexities. Victor hates what he has created but the creature knows only that he was abandoned by the one who had wanted him most. He lost in a world he does not understand nor ask to be a part of.

Ultimately Frankenstein is an allegory about man’s inevitable need to over-reach and impart his own desires upon the world. It was written in an attack on the industrial revolution, hence the ‘modern Prometheus’ portion of the novels full title.

Frankenstein has had a far reaching impact on literature and popular culture and it is arguably the first fully developed science-fiction/fantasy novels.


Rating: 10 out of 10.

If you haven’t read Frankenstein before I highly recommend you do. You can get a copy over on Amazon for the Kindle for free.

Society was the real villain in Frankenstein

What is a monster? Let’s try and find out

A monster is most often defined as a “large, ugly, and frightening imaginary creature.” Most often in literature the main character of the story is a good guy, a man or woman who goes against evil to destroy a villain or monster. And yet despite the fact that the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a quintessential example of a monster, big, ugly, unnatural, it is in fact Victor, the main character who is the true monster. But can we really dismiss his creation as no monster? I don’t think so.

Victor is the one who wished so much to create unnatural life that it ultimately led to the deaths of everyone he loved so dearly.

Some people argue that the creature is the monster of the story based upon the way he looks, he fits the criteria sure but Frankenstein is a novel about the inner reality of a soul, it is a story about how the actions not the physical appearances of people make them monsters or not.


Yet in most analysis of the text the creation is referred to as Frankenstein’s monster, that is his most common label. After all his description is horrifying, “His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries, his hair was of a lustrous black, his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriance’s only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.”

This is a classic example of judging a book by its cover. We, just like the society in the book only see the scary and monstrous aspects of the creature and did not think to judge him by what he was on the inside, within that most horrifying of extremities. Someone who is newly born cannot be evil, they do not know right from wrong, they do not understand the world around them.

The creation is shown to be fascinated with the world, with nature specifically, “I started up and beheld a radiant form rise from among the trees. I gazed with a kind of wonder. It moved slowly, but it enlightened my path.” This is the moment when the creation shows his curiosity for the first time, by allowing us to heart his wonderment through his own words Mary Shelley shows us that he is not a monster, he’s more accurately a child.

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Frankenstein Review

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (most commonly referred to simply as Frankenstein) by Mary Shelley is an old classic of Gothic literature.

We are even shown that he is capable of being good by performing helpful deeds such as gathering wood. It is quite clear that if he had been taught and nurtured he could have been brought down the right path and found his place within society.

At one point he takes a families wood cutting tools and brings them back an ample supply of firewood, an act of pure kindness, “I discovered also another means through which I was enabled to assist their labours. I found that the youth spent a great part of each day in collecting wood for the family fire, and during the night I often took his tools, the use of which I quickly discovered, and brought home firing sufficient for the consumption of several days.”

At his most basic the creation has a personality that cares for others and craves their acceptance within their lives. And yet no matter how many acts of kindness he performs nobody is willing to accept him within their society, he is always judged by his looks alone and not by his deeds or actions, “he dashed me to the ground and struck me violently with a stick.”

Those were the actions of a family the creature had grown to love from a far, the family he would chop wood for secretly so they never went cold, and yet they were terrified by what they saw, they could not bring themselves to look past the outside to the kind hearted person within.

Mary Shelley gives us the false impression that the creation is the monster of the story, but of course that is not true. Victor is a selfish man whose rejection of his creations leads to his own demise and that of his family, he is the monster of his own creation, he is the true villain.

When the creature is first born his introduction into our world is cruel and unforgiving. His creator, and more rightly father, is horrified by him and abandons him immediately, which for a being of new life is terrifying.

This was not a creature born evil, he was simply a product of Victors unwillingness to accept the truth about his experiement. He tries to reach out to other people, to find the comfort and companionship he should have had from Victor. All he ever wanted was to be accepted, and his one true chance at that was taken cruelly away from him when Victor destroys his companion, “The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.”

It was this harrowing death that pushed the creature to his breaking point. Throughout his entire life he had never known one single act of kindness, he had known only disgust and hatred, based on nothing more than his appearance.

The creature deals with Victor in kind and kills his beloved wife Elizabeth.

Something can not be created evil. It is the surroundings and environment within which they are raised that ultimately influence their behaviour. And we see first hand the creature turn from a kind hearted individual into a killer.

Shelley shows us quite clearly that people focus too much on whats on the outside and forget to look at whats on the inside of another person.


Victor was a reckless monster driven by his own passion and ambition, instead of truly thinking about the ramifications of his actions he focused on his desire to be famous.

When Justine is accused of murder Victor stays silent, he doesn’t tell the truth and take responsibility, he allows another to take the fall, and when the creature threatens him on his wedding day he thinks not of Elizabeth but of himself.

Victor describes his own creation as an animal, he never once looks at it as if it were human. But he’s not the only one to reject him.

The creatures entire life is filled with societal rejection and hatred, and we are able to understand, though not justify, his extreme actions in retribution, after all it is societies fault that he is led to the actions he commits.

When he is on his own the creature is a kind individual, he saves a little girl from drowning and he helps a family survive the harsh winter. But he is not seen as the hero he is but as a monster, and it is that fear and hatred leads to the creation of a monster to rival his creator.

The creation certainly did not wish to be born to be evil, he did not wish to be born at all, yet so many literary experts say that simply because of Victors horrible actions his creation is not a monster, as if excusing his actions. They are both monsters, they are both evil, why cannot that be so? Society turned the creature into a monster but I argue it did the same for Victor. He sought approval and fame, shallow things yes but things that society encourages and rewards. They were both corrupted by the same thing, the views of others.

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Undead Drive-Thru Review

I have to start out this review by saying that this book surprised me, massively. I initially expected nothing more than a standard mediocre horror flick written by a semi-professional author, you know the kind you can find plastered all over the amazon kindle home page. Yet this is almost Stephen King level material, OK that may be an exaggeration but it is damn good.

The story has everything a King fan, myself included, could want, a deserted location, odd beyond belief characters, and of course innocent people who are new this god forsaken world.

This was a real page turner, it kept me on the balls of my feet right up until the end, my anxiety level rose page by page.

I shan’t spoil anymore.

While the book was a fast paced affair it did feel overly so, it was over before I personally would have wished, it gave more time to the horror and gore than it did to the development of the characters, a little more build up would have really helped prop up the emotional payoff of the horror.

This lack of a build up means you really don’t care all the much for the characters, making the actions of the novel gory and horrific but not overly harrowing.

We should have more time getting to know Coleen and Ky before they are thrown to the metaphorical wolves Rebecca Besser has planned for them.

Even with the lack of emotional entanglement though this book is a tense and compelling read. I found myself shouting at Ky during many a key moment. All told this does feel like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esq novel, with many a bloody and blood curdling moment. It is a thrilling and yet emotional page turner that will have you chewing on your lip from the first page until the last. I just wish it had been longer.

Rating 9/10

You can scare yourself silly with Undead-Drive-Thru on Amazon.