Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Afraid" by Jack Kilborn

Sheriff Ace Streng might be nearing seventy, but it's not hard protecting the town of Save Haven, which has a fairly low population - one that gets lower once tourist season is over. And the population starts to decline once more after a helicopter crash - a site he's summoned to by Josh and Elmer, two of his deputies. Meanwhile, Fran is a waitress preparing to finish for the night when she and the last patron of the day are attacked. Ace, Josh and Elmer are also attacked when they investigate further into the crash. As for the rest of the town, they've all headed over to the school gymnasium after being told they're the winners of a big lottery, not really caring how bogus that sounds....

Managing to survive repeated attacks, Ace, Josh, Elmer and Fran come to realise there is a group of super-strong soldiers in town with a scary mission: Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. And these soldiers keep asking for the whereabouts of one Warren Streng - Ace's estranged brother....

"Afraid" gets off to a creepy, suspenseful start - and never stops. The characters - and the reader - barely have time to take a break before the next ordeal starts. This is an approach that I loved, as it made for a book that was never dull. The only problem is that sometimes it gets to be a little too much, which robs it of suspense. For example, the sequence in which Fran is trying to rescue her son Duncan from her neighbour's burning house just goes on and on. It's totally superfluous to the rest of the story and quite contrived - how convenient that the elderly neighbour has a bomb shelter and has gone crazy and is trying to kill him? Similarly, there is a subplot involving Elmer's fiance Jessie Lee, who is one of the townsfolk at the gymnasium, and the only one suspicious of what is going on. It leads to some enjoyable, suspenseful sequences, but never really leads anywhere.

Nonetheless, "Afraid" is an action-oriented story that was a welcome change from my usual stomping grounds in the crime genre, one that is lately getting dragged down by authors more concerned with authenticity than tight, twisty plotting. But enough of that. There's plenty of thrills, spills, gore and suspense in this book to keep any fan of action or horror satisfied. It's pacing never flags and it would make a terrific movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment