"Quilt" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by Amazon Digital Services
Written by Dan Padavona
2018, 61 pages, Fiction
Released on February 28th, 2018
The opening sentence of Dan Padavona’s Quilt reveals in a chapter headline, “One week after the boy stopped coming to school, the spiders sank their fangs into Annelise.” So, from the early stages of this short 60-page novella, the reader has a fairly clear indication of the direction the story is heading. This bold opening statement does not kill suspense entirely, but neither does it assist a plot, which is fairly predictable. It’s worth questioning whether this type of very obvious foreshadowing at the start of some chapters added anything to the tension. In reality, some are mini-plot spoilers, even if they are nice openers.
Annelise is a high school maths teacher who has her own relationship problems bubbling in the background of the story and starts out as a sympathetic leading character. The school she works in is tough with few success stories, and virtually no kids ever graduating, except for a handful over several decades. In the early stages of the story, she notices one of her more promising pupils, Jaydn, has been missing from class for a few days and makes official enquiries into his whereabouts. She finds nobody cares for another unexplained absentee and the school principal notes the boy as just another lost cause or failed statistic. There even seems to be suspicion into why Annelise cares so much about the boy at all.
Unwisely mixing her personal problems with her classroom responsibilities for Jaydn, she foolishly heads to the rough side of town, the Jasmine Heights projects, where she knows the boy lives. This is not too far in distance from the school and she can see the projects from her classroom window, but in other ways it is a world away. But this is a very dangerous part of town with all sorts of gang and drug problems, which most sensible folks avoid unless they are unfortunate enough to live there. Whilst investigating Jaydn’s whereabouts, she hears a rumour of a character called the Halloween Man. Who is he? Nobody knows for sure; he could be an urban legend, or a moniker attached to a local killer. Whichever or neither, there is an apartment block in the Jasmine Heights projects which even the gangbangers avoid, as it’s rumoured to be his home turf and is very close to where Jaydn lives. Before long Annelise is in way over her head and the Halloween Man very predictably comes knocking with the limited plot offering no other alternative directions. In defence of the author, there is only so much you can do in 60 pages.
When it comes to the plot, there really is not much more to say and Quilt is a brief read and I did enjoy the circumstantial background commentary on the failings of the American educational system. However, to say this teacher was dumb is a serious understatement, even more so than the standard: “Whatever you do don’t go in the basement” from most horror films, and because she was so naïve, much of the believability goes right out the window, even though her heart is in the right place. In fact, this lady’s so stupid, she returns to the projects on more than one occasion. As we’ve already been warned about this Halloween Man, and there seem to be no other avenues for the plot to head into, it’s just a matter of time before he pops up with minimal surprise.
There is nothing particularly wrong with Quilt, but at the same time it lacks the spark to differentiate it from any number of other serial killer themed stories on the market. If it appeared in an anthology, it would be perfectly acceptable, but it does not have enough going on to stand as a solo release. It also has the Extreme Horror subheading, but this does not come across as genuine extreme horror, although it is gorier towards the end. I’m sure the reader is supposed to be shocked when we find out why the story is called Quilt; more likely you’ll be wondering how the serial killer eluded justice for so long. If you want a short and undemanding read then there is some fun to be had, but if you want to be challenged, look elsewhere.