Animosity
James Newman

Necessary Evil Press
Price: $45.00 (limited edition)
Review by Darkeva

How well do you know your neighbors? It’s a question most people don’t give a second thought to these days, content that they exchange perfunctory pleasantries with those in their immediate vicinity, on either side of their houses But imagine what would happen if those seemingly normal and well-adjusted neighbors find out that you write horror. Chances are at least some of them would be disturbed, especially if they don’t understand the genre and can’t imagine why anyone would write it.

Most horror writers would probably keep quiet about it. Or their neighbors wouldn’t take much of an interest. But in Animosity, horror writer Andrew Holland doesn’t have it so easy. Because of his great success, everyone on the block knows he writes horror. His neighbors know that even though they don’t read his work, he’s basically a nice guy and like him for the most part. He’s also a family man with a loving wife and daughter, and he certainly doesn’t have any reason to believe that people who he’s known for so long and who have been so kind to him could turn out to be the worst monsters he’s ever encountered.

But as the saying goes, all good things come to an end. He catches his wife cheating, and a divorce follows. Not long after, he discovers the corpse of a little girl in his idyllic neighborhood and descends into a hell even he couldn’t conjure from his dark imagination. He can’t begin to describe how horrific it is for him to have found the body, a pain that would be magnified a thousand times if it were his own daughter, Samantha. No direct evidence points to him, but the neighbors learn from media reports that he found the girl, and they get suspicious, starting to make leaps and accusations. They ignore the fact that if he murdered the child, he would probably cover his tracks as opposed to bringing it to the police’s attention.

Still, he found the corpse. Not much that points to his guilt – except for a conviction for raping a minor, which the police unearth in their background check. The media also finds out, and mentions it in their reports, which heightens tensions among the neighbors who reason that if he could rape a minor before, he could have committed this murder. A flashback shows the reader the circumstances of the alleged “rape” (it’s not what you might think). The neighbors, of course, don’t get this explanation, and even if they did, are so far gone that it wouldn’t make a difference. In their eyes, Andrew has become a pedophile and murderer. The gruesome gore scenes in his novels don’t make a great case for his innocence.

His neighbors descend into a dangerous herd mentality that escalates with one violent act after another. Anything Andrew does only seems to make the situation worse. It’s difficult for the reader to see what’s happening to Holland, and how the mass outbreak of hysteria manifests itself into a dark force more evil and destructive than any demon or ghoul from Hell. Human nature is the most powerful weapon at the disposal of Holland’s neighbors, and they give in to their irrational beliefs about him.

Everything culminates in a neighborhood brawl that sees some of his neighbors becoming downright bestial, all because they think he’s a murderer. There’s an even more tragic irony that I won’t divulge here in the interest of not giving away the plot, but this book powerfully illustrates the damaging effect it can have when a group of people choose to believe something and don’t allow common sense to prevail; when they choose to ignore the facts before them and invent their own lies to justify their twisted beliefs – a sick example of confirmation bias.

So next time you move to a new neighborhood and your neighbors ask what you do for a living, you may want to rethink what you tell them.

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