John Paul Allen
Biting Dog Press
Approx. 108,340 words
Review by Rick Hipson
It’s an enigma how the man with three first names can walk among polite society as humble and unassuming, always coming across as just a regular dude who loves coffee as much as I do and yet, when no one’s watching and the women and children have all gone to bed, author John Paul Allen must surely embrace some kind of evil when left alone with his muse and an unflinching pen.
I wonder if the following words from his novel are engraved on a chunk of brimstone hooked above his writing desk: “The best time for me was just before the screaming stopped and their voices hit that pitch.” The tone of this novel all but echoes such a pitch with every chapter read.
Beginning the novel in the medieval era affords the perfect setting to waste no time getting to the guts of this story’s brutal intent. The road ahead is hardly designed with the squeamish or easily offended in mind as we find ourselves cast in the midst of a royal conflict in which a King’s rival exacts some old fashioned revenge in the most vile, degrading of ways. It won’t take long for readers to realize they’re about to venture on a headlong exploration of suffering and existential hell, and there’s not a damn thing to do about it with John Paul at the helm.
The devastating beauty of the author’s voice is displayed in how well the terror transcends from the page to the point where readers will feel firmly embedded in the driver’s seat, gripping the wheel and holding on for dear life as an invisible force presses down hard on the accelerator. John Paul makes it easy to feel as though you’re the culprit behind every nasty little thing that transpires. Get ready to question your morals plenty between the first chapter and the final page. Even as Ed Paine, a phys-ed teacher whom we spend the most significant time with, promises to provide some kind of salvation out of a long standing legacy of pain and manipulation, the most harrowing aspect of this novel is its author’s ability to draw us in to every conflict so completely we feel as though we’re the ones in need of redemption and a long hot shower.
Whether you believe in reincarnation, know exactly where you stand with nature vs. nurture, or end up throwing the book at the wall in disgust halfway through, if there’s only one certainty to be had regarding the take away of this brutal body of work it’s this: Gifted Trust will leave you trusting nothing is ever as it seems; not your neighbour, your loved ones, not even your own existence. John Paul is clearly at his best when delivering the goods on nightmares worth remembering. A few restless nights and some thought provoking gut checks later and I guarantee you’ll be back for more of what John Paul’s wicked muse has in store for you. Trust me.