"Ted's Score" Book Review
Written by Daniel P. Coughlin
2012, 240 pages, Fiction
Released on January 1st, 2012
With two films, Lake Dead and Farmhouse, and a few published short stories to his credit, Daniel P. Coughlin is no stranger to writing. However, with Ted's Score, Coughlin makes the jump into novels with a tale that's well-written and packed with classic horror elements.
Ted's Score tells the story of Jules Benton, a seventeen-year-old senior who goes missing after the spring formal dance in the small town of Watertown, Wisconsin. The disappearance eerily resembles the vanishing of a young couple from the same place many years before. The fact that Jules and the girl that suffered her same fate a few decades earlier look alike is not lost on a retired cop who thinks Ted Olson, a recluse who lives in the outskirts of town and was a suspect the first time around, has something to do with it. However, Jules' father, Richard Benton, is convinced of who's to blame for his daughter's disappearance: David Miller. David is Jules' boyfriend and the last person to have seen her.
With pain in his heart and a theory in mind, Richard sets out to follow David. Soon the grieving father confirms his suspicions when he trails David to the place where he interred her body and listens to the youngster apologizing to Jules for killing her. The conformation puts vengeful thoughts in Richard's head. Unbeknownst to both Richard and David, there is a third element to the equation that played a decisive role: Ted Olson. With the pieces in place and all players in a blind state of ignorance, the story spirals into a maelstrom of violence, blood and vengeance that will result in a lot of bodies hitting the ground.
Coughlin's tale has a few aspects that deserve special mention. For starters, Ted Olson will be a treat to Ed Gein enthusiasts. Just like the infamous ghoul to whom literature and film owe so much, Ted is the twisted product of a strong-willed mother with a ton of psychological issues and a weak, drunk father. Also, the story takes place in two microcosms that eventually collide in a very brutal way. On one hand there is the small-town America world of high school students, boyfriends, dances and first sexual experiences. This microcosm is explored thoroughly and even thrown into question via an exploration of Jules' blooming sexuality and its consequences: an unwanted pregnancy that acts as a catalyst for the story. On the other hand, there's the dark life of a deranged serial killer with a penchant for sustaining sexual relations with severed heads and a desire for hunting humans, which he refers to as "scores." Coughlin successfully jumps from one world to the other for most of the novel before bringing both universes together for the gruesome conclusion.
Written in a direct, fast-paced prose and packed with tension and despair, Ted's Score is a must-read for fans of classic horror stories and admirers of literature that explores serial killers and their psychology. Also, the novel works well in its portrayal of real-life horror: it can be way closer than anyone suspects. Pick up a copy today.