Because I like to read and I also like to get free things, I signed up to receive a free copy of the horror novel AFRAID by Jack Kilborn in exchange for posting a review online. I don’t read horror novels. I’ve never even read Stephen King. But I’m making an effort to read outside the genre I write in, and this fit the bill.
I have to say I had no idea what the book was about, even after reading the back cover and lots of marketing materials. This was on purpose and effective, because let me tell you, this story was weird. I had an idea of what I thought it might be about. It was weirder than that.
I even hesitated to open the darn thing because I thought I’d get scared and have nightmares. The book arrived in the mail when when my husband was out of town and I honest to goodness wouldn't start reading it until he was back home. But after all that, I didn’t find it scary. It was super gross, but not scary.
The story was simple: “something” invades a small town in Wisconsin. Figuring out the “something” was pretty cool, and that’s what kept me reading. I didn’t need to see more gore (and really, I expected a lot more of it), but I wanted to figure out what the “something” was. Kilborn was tricky about this.
Even though I was reading gross scenes, I got through the book pretty quickly. I did get stalled in the end by some of the logistics. As I started to put the pieces together, I kind of wanted it to be over a little faster.
I have to give Kilborn credit for succinct description. There’s always just enough to paint a little picture in your mind, then he keeps things moving. But his best credit (also in his Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series, written under the name of J.A. Konrath) is his character development. These people have some serious back story. In a good way. Everyone has a motivation, a reason for being the way they are.
Joe Konrath (aka Kilborn) says he tried to stretch himself by writing a horror novel, something he’d never done before. I’d say he was successful. It’s a good book. But I’d love to see him go all MYSTIC RIVER on us and write something more (okay, maybe equally?) centered on character than plot.
Overall? If you like horror, I think you’ll love this. If you’re a fan of Konrath’s other books, I think you’ll like this, too. His breezy and compact writing style pulls you through any of his books, no matter the genre. Not a fan of horror? Read it anyway. It’s super weird, and that’s always interesting.