Dennis Shore is a successful horror novelist but has suffered one of life's greatest tragedies in the past year, the death of his wife. "When stricken by a paralyzing case of writer's block and a looming deadline, Dennis becomes desperate." He plagiarizes an unstable fan's manuscript, setting off a chain of events and the pursuit of violent revenge that threatens his sanity and the lives of his daughter and friends.
This was a difficult review for me to write. I'm a fan of the horror genre, but loathe the excessive profanity, sexual content, and gratuitous gore that so many writers in the genre depend on to make an impact with the reader. I had not previously read a Travis Thrasher novel, so I was excited to see what he had to offer.
It would be an injustice to the readers of this review, to myself, and ultimately to the author if I merely stated "This book is great--read it," and was negligent in revealing some disappointment. The fan in me loved this story. The critic in me found some minor negatives.
I was concerned a few pages in whether I would truly enjoy it. The story took a while to develop and incidents occurred that seemed disjointed from the plot. The dialog felt forced. There are some editing errors, for example, the wrong pronoun used (p.17 "Did you threaten you?" The first "you" should be "she."). To the author's defense, it is tricky starting a novel, establishing the plot and characters, and simultaneously hooking the reader. If you stop reading this book because of these flaws, you'll miss out on what simply can be defined as an extraordinarily good story. I'm incredibly grateful I stuck with it.
Yet there was still one more thing that frustrated me--I couldn't wait to see what happened next! This... was a good feeling. For thrill-seekers, GHOSTWRITER is very much like the beginning of a monster rollercoaster. After climbing that first big hill (having time to look around, check your watch, shift around in your seat...), the rest flies at you in an eye-watering rush and your focus is dominated by what's coming in the next stage of the ride. Kudos, Mr. Thrasher.
When you read a scary story and you're not really sure what's going on, but just when you think you've nailed it, something unexpected happens and your perception is shattered, that is the outline of a great horror story. That's a great story, period. That is what GHOSTWRITER is.
It's easy to develop compassion for Dennis Shore and identify with his grief, lack of faith, and his struggles with what's real and what's not. While it's a remarkably frightening story, it is also an emotional love story. The reader feels Shore's nightmarish fears and also his gut-wrenching sorrow.
Shore bounces in and out of lucidity so the reader cannot always discern what is real and what is the product of his poor mental health. This element can be difficult to pull off while mitigating reader confusion, but Thrasher makes good use of the technique, effectively keeping the reader guessing.
While this may sound like just a scary love story, do not be deceived. It is a full-on horror novel. Unspeakable supernatural evil tries to destroy the very essence of Shore's life with an unhealthy serving of shocking violence.
GHOSTWRITER is an emotionally intricate masterwork of how evil can destroy us and love can redeem us. Thrasher has proved to me to be an exceptional storyteller.
Do you believe in ghosts?
[Rating: 1-5 Stars]