Die, You Bastard, Die!
Jan Kozlowski

Ravenous Shadows, February 1, 2012
Kindle Edition, $4.99
Review by Darkeva

Editor John Skipp includes a ‘love letter’ at the front of this novel about how excited he is to share the great fiction he’s finding for his line, Ravenous Shadows, and even though this is one of the first Ravenous Shadows titles I read, I hope to read many more.

I could see the quality from the first page. Skipp has a gift for finding the best horror fiction out there, whether it’s with this line or with his anthologies, like the Bram Stoker Award-winning Demons, and it’s nice to see that he’s giving lesser known writers a start.

The title intrigued me from the outset, of course, as I wondered who the ‘bastard’ in question is, and what could invoke such hatred. Die, You Bastard, Die! starts off with a pair of ambulance drivers, Jim and Claire, who respond to a call to come to a residence where a man has been savagely murdered by his neglected wife in a creative and devastatingly painful way. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, in which Claire struggles with the news that her father is in hospital and they’re not discharging him. Since home care nurses are so expensive, the nurse suggests that Claire become her father’s caretaker since she’s a paramedic.

I saw right through the old man when he pretended to refuse Claire’s help out of concern for her not having to take him on as a burden, but knew that she ultimately would because of her basic decency and goodness, even though he admits he was a screw-up as a father. She ran away from home for a good reason, and has to re-live the torment that her father put her through at Fish Camp, where he still lives. One of the nurses, Zack, helps her out at first, but her father wastes little time driving Zack away.

It doesn’t take long after Zack leaves for her father to start reverting to his true, deeper, sinister evil plan to trap Claire. But he couldn’t have done it by himself – he reveals that one of the other girls who he abused when she was younger, Tandy, had a huge hand in the matter. Although she’s now an adult, she struggles with being forced to commit the same lewd acts she did when she was a helpless child. At first, the book is set up to look like a rescue mission for Claire, but it turns into an exploration of how far Claire is willing to go to get revenge on this piece of scum for everything he’s done to her. But it doesn’t end there. Her father also makes a considerable profit from his recordings of what he forced young female campers to do. Although not the most despicable character I’ve ever encountered, he’s up there as one of those truly vile, sick characters that you will want to see snuffed out.

Some of the violent descriptions that Claire imagines jump off the page, and although we’re conditioned to believe that we should turn the other cheek, or rise above the hate and not sink to the same level as our bullies – those who have done something wrong to us – it doesn’t take much convincing for Claire to see that there is no other way out of this than to pay her old man back for everything he’s put her through. You will root for her to do just as much damage to him as he did to her.

Tandy’s sister, Olivia, switches loyalties back and forth and has a very significant role to play in how things turn out. The ending, when it comes, is satisfying in many ways, but there’s only one thing Claire can do and you’ll wonder just how the whole experience has changed Claire – has it made her a better or worse person? Thought-provoking, gut-wrenching, action-packed, and just plain darn good, Die, You Bastard, Die! should be on every horror reader’s TBR list. As with Tribesmen, Adam Cesare’s novel, the Ravenous Shadows list will bring in people who love horror films with substance and turn them into readers if they aren’t already.

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