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Shadowhawk reviews the latest adult murder mystery novella from noted author and editor Tim Marquitz.
“Quite graphic and shocking, Prey is also one of my best reads of 2012 because of an intensely paced story and some great characterisation.” ~Shadowhawk
I’ve been interacting with Tim for quite a while now, and have even invited him to my blog for a guest post. Up until Prey, I hadn’t a chance to read any of his work, other than the horror/monsters mash-up anthology Fading Light, which he edited last year. After reading Prey, I really regret not having read any of his, because it was a fantastic novella (it actually contains two novellas, Prey and Anathema).
The first thing that struck me about Prey was how graphic Tim gets in his descriptions of murder scenes, from an almost uncomfortable sexual angle. It made for some really tough reading, I can tell you that, especially since I’ve never read fiction like that. However, it also made me realise that Tim was not the kind of author who wanted to play things safe, and so made some bold, daring attempts to get across the true horror of situations. Evens in the novella often get violent, and Tim does not shirk from letting the reader feel the full impact.
The story itself is a multiple homicide story, with Detective Shane Calvin being the lead investigator. As far as Calvin is concerned, I think Tim pretty much nailed the characterisation. He is the kind of officer that I expected from the story: he is irreverent, selfless, and extremely focused in his investigations. In many ways, he is like Will Smith’s character Detective Spooner from I, Robot. As we follow. They are both troubled men who have demons of their own. Calvin along, chapter by chapter, revelations and mysteries keep on piling until right towards the climax, itself a shocking ending with a huge reveal. The mystery/thriller aspect of the story is always in full effect, and Tim never lets the reader forget what the main goal is, proving that the man Calvin has in custody is indeed the murderer he has been looking for.
Prey has a very relentless pace, and is a quick read. The graphic sequences in the novella are, as I’ve said, very shocking. I wouldn’t exactly call this an enjoyable read, on account of how uncomfortable it made me feel at times, but it is still a very good story that worked for me on a more… meta level. It definitely has a thumbs-up from me.
Anathema is the second novella here, and it tells a very different tale than Prey, although they are both about personal revenge and the lengths that some people will go to claim their vengeance against those who have wronged them. The events are also less shocking, and less graphic, which made for a much easier read.
Characterisation was once again not a issue, as Tim explores the darkness in the human psyche once more, and gives us the intriguing tale of Jerrod Dawkins who has been unwittingly framed for infidelity and has been divorced from his wife, separated from his only son, and fired from his (rather) cushy job as a senior scientist/researcher at his wife’s father’s company. Jerrod makes for a very sympathetic character and the way he is written, I couldn’t help but cheer him on, since the people who’ve wronged him are utter jerks about it. Betrayal also features quite a bit here, making some really nice twist and turns in the narrative.
One of the things that Tim gets pretty much right is how the name of the story fits the character. With his current misfortunes, Jerrod is truly an anathema to those around him, barring his son, who is the only one who still wants to be with him. The scenes involving the two are near-heartbreaking, and it is to the author’s credit that with all the stuff going on in the story, there is a place for a few (small) touching scenes as these.
Towards the end, Tim ramps up the destructiveness that Jerrod is putting himself through, and the lengths he is willing to go to get his revenge, including the possibility of putting both his wife and his son in danger. His cold judgement almost made me dislike him, but I also realised that by that point, Jerrod was far too consumed with his end goals, that his focus had become too intense and narrow. The change in the character is striking, and quite sad as events come to a (again) destructive conclusion.
And by then, all I for the character was pity and sympathy.
Anathema is not as well-paced as Prey but it is nevertheless a story that is just as good, and I’d definitely recommend picking up the book.
At the moment, I’m also quite interested in reading more of Tim’s work, particularly his epic fantasy stuff, which I’m told is very popular.