"Deceiver" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by DarkFuse
Written by Kelli Owen
2014, 142 pages, Fiction
Released on June 17th, 2014
After his wife is found murdered in a hotel room, husband Matt is understandably devastated. While the police investigate the case, Matt tries to make sense of her death and comes across a mysterious notebook among the belongings that are returned to him. The more he of it he reads, the more he finds that his wife led a double life that sucker-punches him in the gut. If the mystery of her demise wasn't enough, there's a Pandora's Box of questions in that notebook that may never be answered, questions that Matt may not even want answered.
I believe it was Brian Keene who said on one of his podcast episodes that the novella is the ideal length for a horror novel, and I'm starting to agree with him. Don't get me wrong, two of my favorite books, Stephen King's IT and The Stand, are epic novels, but there's something about the novella that I'm becoming more and more of a fan of because you can get a great story with no fat. Kelli Owen's Deceiver is an excellent example of this.
Deceiver isn't horror in the traditional sense, as there's nothing at all supernatural found in its pages. But its terrifying story is horrific nonetheless, delivering unease not unlike that of movies like Se7en and Silence of the Lambs.
What stands out most in this book is the high level of tension Owen maintains throughout. There was never a point I was truly comfortable reading it, and there were times when I released a breath I didn't realize I was holding. You would think that most interesting part of Deceiver would be what's in the notebook, and in fact you will get caught up just as Matt does reading it. And there's a part of you who gets annoyed with Matt when he stops reading it because you are just intrigued as he is. But Owen is such a skilled author that within a few words, you are engrossed in the next part of the story and you don't realize you have missed the mystery unravelling in the notebook until Matt picks it up again. The best way I can describe this is when I watch Game of Thrones and the story is following Ayra Stark's adventures and then jumps to Tyrion Lannister and the trouble he's getting into, I'm mad for a moment because I really like the Arya character. But then I remember I really like Tyrion too, so things are fine. It's like that. Sure I want to find out where that story in the notebook is heading, but I'm also caught up in how Matt is dealing with this tragic loss. That's a tough balance to pull off, and Owen does it with ease.
If that weren't impressive enough, Owen throws in one hell of a twist in Deceiver. If this were a book with double the page count, that would almost be expected, but to do it in the novella format, and for it to actually work, is exceptional. When the turn hit me, I was a bit giddy. It is so smoothly introduced that if the repercussions weren't so jarring, it would have almost slipped by me. I freely admit I did not see it coming at all. When I read this for a second time knowing the outcome, I was able to see that all the clues are there. There are no cheats here, kids. Everything is as it's supposed to be.
If the tension and twist aren't enough to make this a must read, Owen's ability to describe raw emotion is phenomenal. I felt Matt's grief and pain. You have no doubt this is a man in mourning, as his anguish and sorrow is so pronounced it's damn near tangible.
I can't speak highly enough of the balancing act that Owen seamlessly pulls off in Deceiver, managing bereavement, mystery, anger, and surprises all in fewer than 150 pages. This novella was my introduction to Kelli Owen's work, and if you haven't yet been introduced to it, this is where you'll want to start too. If you are familiar with her and haven't yet read this, what the hell are you waiting for?