Book Review: 'The Stranger'
As a science fiction and horror fan, I started writing both genres myself due to a dearth of good stories. However, I still read and periodically review both sci-fi and horror books. This led me to read “The Stranger” by Kathy Dinisi; this short horror novel is available on Amazon. I haven’t read her other works like the “Hell Bound” or “Arrived” series.
The Strengths of “The Stranger”
The plotting is logical. Why do you pull over in a gas station in the middle of nowhere? Bathroom break. Why pull over in the middle of nowhere? A photographer wants to take photos for work. Why do you have to get home to the baby right now? Because Mom is going on her planned vacation, so you cannot wait.
It’s a quick read at a reasonable price. Too many people would have added layers of drama and repetition to try to draw it out.
The ending is not what one would expect, and that’s unusual given the genre.
The Weaknesses of “The Stranger”
The little grammar and punctuation mistakes distract from the story. For example, I don’t think I saw a single comma after a name in any of the numerous conversations.
The guy is creepy, and the man looking at you gives you the creeps. The music gives you the creeps. This is too much foreshadowing early in the book, and the repetition of the term “creepy” is annoying. Repeating the same refrain that the creepy music is on the radio is aggravating. The same song lyrics of warning and dread playing every single time she turns on the radio strains the reader’s ability to suspend belief.
You’re in a diner with people and a phone. The fact that the staff is not caring and considerate does not negate the relative safety of being in a place with people. You don’t even think about asking one of several people in the building for use of their cell phones or the landline instead of the pay phone? Or asking them for directions? Granted, the illogical decisions in horror movies and books are often caused by the fear and anger of the main character. However, I would have liked to see her order lunch and be given something insane like a plate of worms, while the server is absolutely certain it is spaghetti.
Calling the boss to ask why he recommended that highway would have added depth and likely drama to the story.
I wonder if the author has ever actually driven rural backroads and stayed somewhere longer than it takes to eat lunch and fill up the car. The stereotypes of aloof, disdainful rural people hating “city folks” and not giving a damn about a terrified young woman who comes in saying she’s followed are false. Conversely, if it is the devil’s highway, perhaps they were illusions or possessed, but at least one interaction with someone other than exchange pleasantries, have them look at you in disgust and the main character assumes it isn’t worth talking to them at all would have upped the emotional impact. Pointing to a broken car, stating you'd been in an accident and need help, could have revealed they were fake caricatures created by the same demon to prolong her pain. The only explanation I can think of is that she’s as trapped in a hell from her own biases and delusions, making her the perfect prey.
“The Stranger” is a short, basic horror story that is a bit of escapism if you’re on a long trip. The need for editing and repetition cost it two stars, but the twist ending that defies standard conventions adds one back. Four stars.
© 2017 Tamara Wilhite