Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Old Flames, by Jack Ketchum

(pb; 2008: novella, coupled with an additional novella, Right to Life)

From the back cover:

"Burned again. Men never treated Dora well. This latest cheated on her and dumped her. The last decent guy she knew was her old high school boyfriend, Jim. He'd said that he loved her. Maybe he did. So with the help of the Flame Finders, Dora's found him again. Turns out he's married with two kids. But Dora isn't about to let that stand in her way. . ."


Old Flames is standard Ketchum fare: solid, straightforward, more true-crime than horror (a book section that Ketchum usually gets lumped in), and barbed with small, sharp shocks -- as is the ending, which adheres to Ketchum's habit of keeping his work believable.

Definitely worth reading, this. It's not one of Ketchum's landmark works (like Off Season), but it's satisfying and worth buying.

The same can be said about Right to Life (a 1998 novella that previously had been published as a limited-release work).

When Sara Foster, a couple of months along with child, is abducted at an abortion clinic by two strangers (Kath and Stephen Teach) and put into a box in their cellar, she's terrified and disoriented. But the worst is yet to come. In order to escape, Sara must endure horrors that veer between the banal and the extreme (torture, rape).

Ketchum's writing doesn't flinch from violence or ugliness; nor does it glorify it. The rape and torture scenes are handled as tastefully as possible, with little flourish: Ketchum is not a flashy author, generally speaking. Yet there's always a sense of hope to this tale, due to Sara's cool-headed intelligence and The Cat.

Both of these novellas are worth checking out. The fact that they've been paired together in one volume is a dark-hearted joy.

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