By Hunter Shea
Flame Tree Press
Ashley King is just like any other American gal. Loved by her family, loads of friends and always the life of the party. She’s even engaged to be married by her adoring fiancé Todd. It seemed as though she was on top of the world. So why was her lifeless body found hanging in the basement of her home one ill-fated afternoon?
Always the adventurous, fresh out of school, Ashley and a group of friends went on an urban exploration to the abandoned ruins of The Hayden Resort found in the Catskills Mountains. None of them could have possibly predicted what would transpire that night. Each had fallen victim to the grisly mass slaying by a deranged lunatic the press would later bill as Wraith. Ashley was the lone survivor.
She did her best to cope for five years later. Yet she always concealed a great deal of her inner turmoil. Sadly, she took the only way out she could conceive by hanging herself, rendering each of her loved ones paralyzed with grief and shock. Todd naturally took it the worst but vowed to piece together the missing links to what unfolded that macabre night and visits the Hayden Resort for one last stand.
Slash is the second novel that I’ve read now from Flame Tree Press. It is also my introduction into the realm of one Hunter Shea. I’ve heard nothing but colossal things about his work within the horror community. Suffice to say my exploration was long overdue. I couldn’t be more content we’d come acquainted.
Perhaps what is most notable about Shea’s body of work in the initial pages is his universal prose. His style of story telling lures in the reading audience with ease. There’s no pretentious jargon or over the top exposes of motive from the get-go. Hunter’s story telling appeals to a large demographic, more like newfound friends sharing a spooky tale before a campfire.
His delicate precision of exposition and plot development is executed flawlessly. While its obvious we need some sort of direction as to what transpired five years ago at the Resort Massacre, this author doesn’t dwell. The passages of time from prior to present are well queued. Mostly importantly it keeps the reader engaged. I must confess I devoured the majority of Slash within two sittings. I’d be hard pressed to find any other readers that won’t follow suit.
It doesn’t take long to realize Hunter Shea’s been in the game for a spell. With over seventeen novels to his credit, this is a shining illustration of a craft coming into refinement. He knows his components and variables well. What works and what doesn’t work all the while telling a tale that will resonate long after the final pages.
The empathy for Todd is conveyed well. As a reading audience, we all know what its like to lose a loved one. On a deeper, subconscious level, we vicariously get lost with Todd’s character and heal our own passages of grief.
The character of Ashley embodies mystique. Initially its difficult not to get angry with her suicide. Yet as the more we get to know her back story, varying elements are brought to light that emphasizes the empathy factors. We feel her pain, much like Todd and her loved ones have.
A subtext of society’s obsession with the macabre, mayhem and murder provides a powerful message. Initially Todd blames the followers of the infamous Final Girl’s story. I especially enjoyed how the author demonstrated this provocative message, certainly inspiring many a conversational piece long after the book has been read.
Within the first act, the motivation behind Wraith’s mayhem seems a little elusive. As an avid fan of horror, whether written or on the screen, its difficult not to formulate what you think may be a predictable or cliché plot. I’m satisfied to state few will see what is next to come. Wraith’s legend has been cemented.
Slash is an original premise while embodying and paying homage to all the classic components of a genre tale we’ve all come to know and love. Shea’s intensity adds fuel to a fire, indicative that he’s been a lifelong fan himself.
At times some readers may become suspect that Slash could have ended and were prepared to face the inevitable. Yet the author seems to have fun with his reading audience, once again conveying all of the necessary evils that come equipped with a good old-fashioned slasher tale. The relevance of Wraith’s tenacity becomes gruesomely clear in the end.
A shivering spectacle that will no question lead me to further Hunter Shea explorations.