The Cockroach King: Andrew Cull
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Andrew Cull deliver some truly stunning reads. ‘Bones‘ took the dark fiction community by storm, his collection was bleak and brutal and hit all of the right buttons.
Shockingly, I was privileged to beta-read his debut ‘Remains‘ which is a high-water mark for haunting, grief-based horror.
Throughout this, Andrew and myself have messaged back and forth, encouraging each other and beta reading different pieces here and there. When ‘The Cockroach King‘ was announced, I was beyond thrilled that the world was going to see a new Cull release shortly and even more thrilled to see it was on my friend Glenn’s upstart publishing company Beneath Hell Publishing.
What I liked: ‘The Cockroach King‘ is a quick read, initially released for free on Beneath Hell Publishing’s website. I personally decided to wait and buy the ebook as I wanted to support these two, so once the pre-order was loaded on my Kindle, I dove in. It tells the story of a single mother recently moving into a new house with her young son. As with most stories in this genre, things look to be on the up and up for the small family until an incident and a discovery.
Through this, Cull works his magic by keeping the reader on the edge of their seats while slowly dangling that carrot before your eyes. You want to know more. Why this house? Why this family? Cull introduces a few side characters that both help move the plot along but also immediately feel familiar. His easy way of storytelling is that of an old friend whom you’ve met up after some time. Sharing how life is and how the family is doing. It’s through this calm and friendly narrative that Cull is able to suck the reader in and before you know it, you’re hyperventilating when he describes a baby monitor’s batteries running low.
I need to stay spoiler-free, but I will say that the last quarter of this book is written with a chaotic hyperness that ramps everything up an extra notch. The finale is spot on and the ending worked really well.
What I didn’t like: Two things here. One personal and one for other readers. As you can gather from the title, cockroaches make plenty of appearances and while most people are creeped out by them, I find them a bit meh in literature. So, for me in this case, when they were found in places or arrived it didn’t make me squirm. But if they creep you out, prepare to feel as though they are crawling all over you.
The second thing – and this is for the other readers – this book may do well to have a trigger warning put at the beginning due to some animal stuff. I don’t want to spoil it at all, but the key cog to the book revolves around the discovery I alluded to earlier and for some readers as things play out and the finale arrives things do get worse. I don’t need trigger warnings for books myself, but keep this in mind.
Why you should buy this: Cull is head and shoulders at the forefront of ‘new and exciting’ writers that everyone should be reading. You can’t go wrong with any of his back catalog and this new release is sure to win new fans. At the moment this is an ebook only release, but Cull has stated he’s writing another story related to the first so that a physical release will be coming.
I really loved ‘The Cockroach King.’ Another fine example of how, no matter what the main narrative of a story is, Cull can infuse the darkest subject with grief and make the reader feel emotional and really care about his characters.
The Cockroach King
“We’d been in the house two weeks when Tommy pulled the first bones from the garden.”
When Cassie Baker buys the house on Cedar Street, it’s partly because it reminds her of the house she grew up in in the ‘80s. It reminds her of happier times, when her Mom was still alive, before the cancer had taken her. It seems like the perfect place to raise her baby boy, Sam.
That is, until a friend unearths the remains of a dog, buried in a shallow grave in the backyard.
After the bones come the cockroaches…
THE COCKROACH KING is a new novella written by Andrew Cull, the award-winning author of REMAINS and BONES. All profits from sales of THE COCKROACH KING will be donated to UNICEF.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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