We’ve had a few books wing their way to WGN Towers from indie press Darkstroke now (see my reviews for The Dark Chorus and Deep Level) and, without wanting to spoil the rest of this review, they’ve all been a whole lot of fun to read. Darkstroke specialises in horror, dystopian science-fiction and thrillers and our latest book from the publisher, Forgive Me – the debut novel from Kateri Stanley – continues in that vein.
Investigative journalist Susan “Stripe” Mclachlan grew up in the 1990s, a time when her town was under the grip of a terrifying serial killer called The Night Scrawler (so-called due to their penchant for leaving messages daubed in the victim’s blood). When the murders start again, an interview with a reclusive social media entrepreneur leads Stripe back into the nightmare she experienced as a teenager.
It’s difficult to tell you much more than that without giving anything away because, like a twisty-turny thing, Forgive Me makes quite a few sudden direction changes. What starts as a serial killer thriller quickly morphs into something quite different, and it continues to do so. One might think this split-personality would be to the detriment of a story, but each and every plot twist makes perfect sense in the context of what you’ve already read.
The use of switching perspectives and a back-and-forth timeline, at first seems disorienting, but as you continue through the story, it makes perfect sense. The reader is drip-fed information from the 1980s and 1990s as Stripe’s investigation into the murders unveils revelation upon revelation. It took a little getting used to at first but once I was a few chapters in, it felt perfectly natural. Also interesting are the occasional soliloquies from the Night Scrawler themself. These creepy intervals really add to the horror factor and even drop a few hints that things are not exactly what they seem.
It’s difficult to pin down the genre of Forgive Me without giving the game away – there are elements of science fiction, slasher, ghost story and even a liberal dose of John Hughes-esque teen drama – but overall, I got strong vibes of Dean Koontz’s excellent Watchers – a book I loved as a teenager – and even a little bit of one of my favourite films, The Terminator.
I planned to read a little every night over a few weeks but the fast-paced, almost cinematic nature of Forgive Me kept me reading so that I finished in just three or four sittings. If this is only the first novel from Kateri Stanley, I very much look forward to what she produces next.
About the Author
Kateri Stanley graduated from The Open University with a degree in Arts and Humanities and worked for the National Health Service for eight years. She started off writing fanfiction as a kid, moved to short stories, created some audio plays and eventually sat down to write her first novel. When she’s not writing, you can find her binge-watching films and TV shows, making tons of playlists and dabbling in the occasional video game. She currently resides in the West Midlands, United Kingdom with her partner, they are hoping to be cat parents.