When Alice was a little girl, two of her friends stabbed her and left her for dead because they believed that the character from Alice's father's famous comic books, Mr. Tender, would grant them their hearts' desires if they used Alice as a sacrifice. Now a young woman, Alice finds herself a victim to her father's comic books once more, as figures from her past start resurfacing in mysterious and sinister ways. Somebody is watching her - and they want something from her. Something dangerous.
There was a great story buried inside this merely good story. I loved the premise. Mr. Tender kind of reminds me of the creepy owner of Christmasland from Joe Hill's NOS4A2, or the proprietor of Stephen King's eponymous NEEDFUL THINGS. The murder that nearly killed Alice and scarred her for life was obviously inspired as well by the Slenderman myths, and the murders that periodically surface that were inspired by those myths. There's also a dash of MISERY in here, as well, lightly seasoned with some of Gillian Flynn's "damaged-girl-returns-home-to-confront-her-demons" existential crisis turned domestic horror vibes, as well, and even some of Marisha Pessl's NIGHT FILM in the sense that explores what happens when art and obsession go dark and twisted.
MISTER TENDER'S GIRL is definitely an ode to the horror drama and for most of the story (I'd say about 60%), it succeeds admirably. I only got 4 hours of sleep last night because I didn't want to put the book down: it sucks you into its bleak and chilling atmosphere, and doesn't let you go. It's like literary quicksand. The last 30% is where the book suffers because, in my opinion, it jumps the shark. Things just become too ridiculous, and it becomes like this crazy version of the Gong Show, where every one wants to out-psycho everyone else, and I'm just sitting here, like, "Wtf r u doin? Stahp."
I'll give it 3 stars because it was well-written and I think the author has the makings of a truly memorable story under his belt. This one just wasn't it, sadly. Still, it's fun and worth a gander.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
3 out of 5 stars