Saturday, December 10, 2022

Silent Stalker by Richie Tankersley Cusick


I was so excited when I saw the blurb for SILENT STALKER because it kind of sounded like a YA-friendly version of this author's adult horror novel, BLOOD ROOTS, which if you've been following for a while, you probably know is one of my favorite horror novels OF ALL TIME. Do I even care if it's derivative? Nah. If I love the story, I'll happily reread various iterations of it in perpetuity. I'm a sucker for trash that hits right. How you feel about this book is going to depend a lot about your thoughts on teen girl melodrama and gothic romance. I personally love both those things, so this was an instant win for me.

Because right from the beginning, SILENT STALKER doesn't disappoint. I loved the imagery of the heroine and her father driving through the woods on a stormy night, in search of the replica castle that a crazy eccentric family had built in mirror image of their English ancestral home. This felt like such a classic horror/retro gothic scene, and when they're met at the driveway by a man who won't show his face, who shines his flashlight over Jenny in a rather suggestive way, I knew this was probably going to have at least one hot bad guy in it. YAS. And mere instants later, we're treated to more fan service as Jenny meets a mysterious man in old clothes who tells her that he wants to TORTURE her.

Me: lying on the floor, with the ghost of my feminism floating above my deceased form


The owner of the castle is a man named Sir John, who has three sons: Wit, Malcolm, and Derreck. They're here to perform in the Medieval Festival, so they're all in costume when Jenny and her father show up. Wit's the jester, Malcolm is a knight, and Derreck is a carnival performer. Also, they're all HOT. And kind of evil. I don't remember other YA horror pulps having such spicy dialogue, but this one does. I really wished that the author had written this one as an adult horror romance like BLOOD ROOTS and SCARECROW because she actually writes really good smut, but the sexual tension here is off the charts good. A+. Also it's refreshing that the characters are older. The brothers are all college-age and Jenny is an older teen. They all sound like that too. Which I really liked.

But it's not just suggestive glances and double-entendres. Someone wants to play a game with Jenny. A game that will let them own her forever. Which probably will make you think of another YA pulp with a heroine named Jenny. And you wouldn't be wrong. The comparison is apt. And even though the twist for this book kind of came out of nowhere, I didn't even care. The build-up, the atmosphere, and the tension were excellent. I think this is easily one of the best vintage YA thrillers I've ever read. In fact, it felt like something I would write. Or that I'd want to write, since I feel like Cusick is a much better writer than I am. And let me just tell you that the jealousy you feel when you read a book that you wish you'd written, as an author, is a bittersweet feeling that still ends up being surprisingly satisfying.

If I were being picky, which I'm obviously not given my rating, I'd complain that Jenny's father is almost unbelievably stupid (but sadly not entirely unbelievably-- he definitely has the selfish and distracted academic role down pat), and the twist stretched my suspension of disbelief. But mostly this book just made me want to take Ms. Cusick out for coffee and be her best friend, so I can pick her brain and learn from her talent and also hear the stories and experiences that gave her inspo for her ideas.

4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.