Friday, March 16, 2012
Well Written Horror Mystery: Andrew Kaufman
There are horror stories filled with blood and gore, fantastical creatures, dismal endings, and inevitable "risen from the dead" sequels. And then there are mysteries with an element of horrific behavior best left to the reader's imagination. This is the sort of psychological mystery that Andrew Kaufman offers in The Lion The Lamb The Hunted.
Subtle in the telling of emotional abuse, the nuances of which are difficult to describe and more difficult to rationalize, Kaufman skillfully builds a quiet understanding with the reader: there are horrible things happening to the character, frightening events that defy description, and yet the reader comes to realize these as the story unfolds.
Kaufman's main character is a journalist/investigator who writes for a national weekly. With his mother's funeral opening the story, the tone is set for a retrospective look back at a mother/son relationship. It is one that is made more clear in a series of flashbacks carefully written as haunting dreams. Patrick has a medical issue that is disclosed through one of these dream sequences ... two conditions that are unrelated but equally life threatening. One is genetic, and unavoidable. The other is behavioral, and cruel in its origin.
The settings of the story range between the states of Georgia and Texas, well-described without needless description, a careful balancing act that Kaufman has done well. Subordinate characters are sometimes main characters in the dreams, and the reader comes to know them through their actions rather than through lengthy details. All of this adds to the quick pace of the story, which closes with a scene that would satisfy both the enthusiastic horror reader and the more skittish mystery reader who might close eyes during a movie's horror scenes.
There were portions of the story that made me wipe tears away, and others that made me sit up in indignation at what people can do to each other. This story invites the reader into the mind of a grown man who is struggling with untold childhood events, invoking this reader's empathy for the character and appreciation of the author's storytelling skill.
Within the genre of horror and mystery, famed author Stephen King's books have a following due to name recognition more than to continued quality. I enjoyed King's early work. But I would not put King and Kaufman in the same genre. Kaufman's books, too, will gather momentum and more respect in time, due to his subtle style and his avoidance of gratuitous, graphic gore.
The best horror writers allow a role to the reader in creating the scenes implied ... Edgar Allen Poe, long considered one of the greatest horror writers, never had to resort to exposing the beating heart buried deep in the floor ... the reader knew it existed in the character's mind. Kaufman has the same skill. Definitely, a Five Star read!