As a fiction writer, I’m very critical of story no matter what it is I choose to review. I’ve watched films that have had terrible production and acting but have been saved by a unique and well written story. The same is true about books. Writing a book is a long, difficult process and the reception of it is so much harder to gauge. The truth is people just don’t seem as inclined to read, think, and imagine the way they used to and it makes a writer’s job so much harder. In a time when most people only have time and attention for 140 characters or less, how do you hook an audience and engage them in a way that will keep them focused on the story you have to tell. Josh Hancock may have the solution in his new book Death Rituals.
Death Rituals is the story of Cherie Alvarez, a young girl who survived a serious trauma when a crazed killer bludgeoned her pregnant mother to death when she was six. The story follows the life and times of Cherie as she grows and deals with the high profile crime whose motives were as much a mystery as anything else. Told in a missive style through letters, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and other snippets of media, the story is engaging and more than a little creepy as it deals with the psychological torment and social stigma such a trauma can have on a young girl. But I’m not going to give you all the plot points.
There are two things that set Death Rituals apart from its contemporaries. First, the story itself is unique. It explores the sort of effect that surviving a terrible, violent crime can have on a victim, especially a child. I mean, who hasn’t wondered about life for the people who get away from Jason or Michael Myers? How do you find normal again, not only after being traumatized by such a violent encounter, but by a community that turns the event into a bit of local folklore, a ghost story, all about your pain? The story itself unfolds in a sensational, almost tabloid style that grips you with each passing chapter as we go from news broadcasts and police reports to fictionalized scripts, documentaries, and so much more. In an age where media coverage has become our life, Death Rituals feels less like a work of fiction and more like the sort of gripping, tawdry look into another’s tragedy stricken life we’ve come to expect from every blood saturated headline that comes across our screen.
Death Rituals is the third book by author Josh Hancock and is probably one of the more gripping and engaging stories I’ve read in a long time. Both narrative style and the format itself offered an intriguing look into the heartbreaking tragedy of a young girl and her struggle to overcome what was done to her so long ago. The book is available online and in paperback through Amazon and other booksellers as well as his other novels The Girls of October and The Devil and My Daughter. If you haven’t picked up a copy already, then you’re missing out on an excellent, suspenseful horror novel. It’s an intense read but short enough to make it easy to get through in an evening or two.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.