"Die, You Bastard! Die!" Book Review
Written by Jan Kozlowski
2012, 120 pages, Fiction
Released on February 1st, 2012
I have a little challenge for you. Ready? Here it goes: try to image an author that brings together the pull-no-punches prose of Edward Lee, Richard Laymon or Jack Ketchum with whatever an M. Night Shyamalan movie would be like if his plethora of twists were incredibly good. If you were able to conjure something like that, rejoice: that author is here and her name is Jan Kozlowski.
Die, You Bastard! Die! is part of the first batch of titles put out by John Skipp's Ravenous Shadows. It's also Kozlowski's first novel. Considering how pleasing (and I mean pleasing in the most uncomfortable way possible) it was to read Kozlowski's work, I wanted a new book by her before being done with this one.
The novel follows Claire Valentin, a first-rate paramedic who's great at what she does but hides a very dark past. Her current reality is something she built from scratch after escaping the horrible world of constant violence, degradation and abuse that was life with her father. Despite the time and distance between that earlier period and the present, Claire has to go back home when her dad is hospitalized after a crippling fall leaves him with a broken leg. With the aid of an old friend who also suffered at the hands of the old pervert, the daughter returns to the dark world she ran away from and has to take care of the man that put her through some very sick things. However, having to confront her old nemesis might turn out to be the least awful thing that happens during the return trip to a very unpleasant past.
Kozlowski begins the novel in a way that helps the reader get into the story at a nice pace. A bit of action and a touch of humor make the first third of the book an enjoyable read. Then, in the time it takes to blink, the story takes its first turn and darkness, fear and horror come flying out like little scalpels with wings. Once Claire is back home, what follows is a gritty, blood-soaked roller coaster of violence, depraved sex, suppressed memories coming back, decomposing body parts and a healthy dose of madness. While getting comfortable with the book is never an option given the themes (pedophilia, torture, etc.), the action and tension come at you so fast it's impossible not to become enthralled by the story.
When dealing with extreme violence, it's hard to write in a way that's both really convincing and unbelievably vicious, but the author pulls it off perfectly. Also, there's a strange sense of balance that's achieved between the clean, concise writing and the unexpected plot twists and unfiltered sadism.
Although I care little whether great books come from a man or a woman, I can honestly say I'd been waiting for something like Die, You Bastard! Die! from a female author. The list of hardcore horror masters is full of men, and Kozlowski is now in there with the best of them. From little girls being forced to take their "medicine" and the anger that comes from reading about abuse to the power of revenge and a guy being turned into a cockroach piñata, Kozlowski shows that she's not afraid to tackle anything and has the writing chops to do it successfully. Get this book now and keep an eye on Kozlowski's future releases.