Contrition – Deborah Sheldon
Reviewed by Steve Stred
Deborah Sheldon is an Australian based horror writer with an outstanding pedigree. She has written a number of really well-received novels and has been long-listed for a Bram Stoker award.
The synopsis for Contrition had me intrigued. The story follows John Penrose, a fifty year old man battling personal and mental demons. He is an alcoholic who won’t accept or admit to himself that he is, but uses it as a crutch to make it through each day. He also takes care of his disappeared high-school friend Lyle’s twin sister Meredith. Meredith was the girl that all of the boy’s dreamed about in high-school. Now somethings up with Meredith and John won’t admit to himself what is wrong with her, even as the clues mount.
This was pegged as a slow burner, noir-tinged horror tale and I found that description to be spot on.
Deborah does a great job of setting up the characters, giving them reasons for their back stories and then she really digs in with the creepy factors.
I was ultimately bogged down by too many tedious pages. There was simply too many moments, paragraphs and even some chapters that really didn’t need to be included. I’m not sure if this was done to move this into novel length from a short story or novella, but by the twentieth or thirtieth mention of John, alcohol and drinking I was starting to grow annoyed. I got it.
The ending does a great job of tying things together and I was glad it ended how it ended!
Overall this was a nicely done, gritty creepfest, but I found some areas to be overused.
Star Rating (out of 5): 3*
In her late teens, Meredith Berg-Olsen had all the makings of a runway model. Now in her late forties, after everything she had been through – including horrors that John could only guess at – she looked bloodless instead of pale, skeletal instead of slender, more dead than alive.
John Penrose has two secrets. One is the flatmate he keeps hidden from the world: his high-school sweetheart, Meredith. His other secret is the reason he feels compelled to look after her.
Contrition is a horror story with noir undertones and an atmosphere of mounting dread.
Steve Stred is an up-an-coming Dark Horror author. Steve is the author of the novel Invisible, the novellas Wagon Buddy, Yuri and Jane: the 816 Chronicles and two collections of short stories; Frostbitten: 12 Hymns of Misery and Left Hand Path: 13 More Tales of Black Magick.
Steve also has a number of works on the go and enjoys all this horror, occult, supernatural and paranormal.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog Oj.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official Website here
The Girl Who Hid In The Trees
Something lurks just beyond.
Centuries ago a heinous act created a ripple that still haunts the residents to this very day.
Now the kids who reside near McConnell’s Forest live forever in fear.
Jason lost his brother when he was young. He left with his friends to ‘debunk’ the urban legend and never came back.
Now Jason and his group of friends are fed up and want to discover what is happening, what is the real cause of the terror holding their small town hostage.
But something is waiting for them. She may look sweet and innocent, but the friends are about to find out that pure evil can exist in the smallest of packages.
She’s out there. And while you may not know her name or what she looks like, the local kids will tell you if you ask, that you should fear for your life from the girl who hid in the trees.
From the dark mind of Steve Stred, the author of Wagon Buddy, YURI and Invisible comes this fast-paced, seat of your pants coming-of-age tale. A quick, violent, bleak read, The Girl Who Hid In The Trees will make you think twice about those sounds you hear far off in the woods.