I can't recall if it was the exquisite cover art or the cheeky character of Ella that first captured my attention on Twitter, perhaps both. What was it about this enigmatic beauty that delighted and intrigued me? And then I purchased and read the book by Stephen Moran and understood my fascination.
Let's be clear. Ella Thomas is not your typical heroine, no cardboard cut-out she. What the author has created is a fabulously-flawed and deviously-delicious flesh and blood persona, a woman on a mission of discovery and destruction. In the hands of a lesser writer, this book might fall into the category of 'just another book about a serial killer' but this could not be further from the truth. Beautifully-crafted, the book's locales are detailed for texture but never ponderous, the flashbacks both terrifying and poignant, a remarkable feat given the subject matter.
This book is mesmerizing mayhem from beginning to end, one I shall read again and highly recommend. More please, Mr. Moran.
Sirens and horns wake me and I roll off the concrete slab bed onto the dusty cracked tile floor. Batons clang against the bars, creeping closer to my hole, shadows of faceless guards shrouding the feeble light. A monster with broad shoulders unlocks my gate and steps inside, dust and debris pluming into the small space, forcing a cough from my lungs.
"Strip." He doesn't have a voice of a man, the metallic echo of a robot or appliance emanates from underneath the hood covering his massive skull.
Shedding the crusty hospital gown to the floor, I shiver with cold while my brain presents a disjointed array of images of the myriad ways I'm about to die.
The monster grabs my upper arm and drags me out of my hole before thrusting me forward into the line of naked humanity forming in the hallway. I keep my head down and follow the herd of men, which trudges and sways with exhaustion and fear, the endless sirens ripping at sanity.
The faceless monsters force the line into a dark doorway, no light to reveal our collective fate, but screams echo along the walls and ceilings. Some resist and try to push the door closed, but the faceless men eliminate the rebellion with a cattle-prod type weapon, pressing it against the naked flesh of any fighting to administer an electric shock. Once shocked the men fall like the dead and the rest continue into the dark open door without a fight.
I'm at the front of the line, hands propel me forward into the darkness. Screams attack my ears and more hands pull me through another doorway. Suddenly, I'm bathed in light so intense it burns my skin. I'm in an auditorium of sorts, rows of seats surrounding a small stage.
Scattered throughout the auditorium are televisions enclosed in cages blaring the same address from the fearless leader of our land. He screams and gesticulates, the sound seeping into my pours. After each break in the speech a round of screams echos as if in response. Leader speaks, the citizens scream in agony.
The herd pushes me toward the stage, where a woman in a dress that was once white, but now mostly red with the blood of those screaming response at fearless leader holds court with a sword in her hands.
I'm third in line. Individual 438. My death approaches. The first man steps on the stage and knees before the woman. As fearless leader speaks and rages on the television screen, the man makes the sign of the cross. A bell rings and the woman raises the sword high in the air.
"He told another lie, I sentence you to death."
Swinging the sword, the blonde woman severs the man's head and kicks it from the stage as the body spurts blood. The man in front of me screams and attempts to run from the line. Nobody stops him.
The televisions go dark and fearless leader screams no more. The woman on the stage wipes blood from the sword and approaches me.
"You got lucky. He told 437 lies."
She smiles and taps at my naked parts with the sword. A monster appears by her side, this one with a face of scars and burnt features for all to see.
"What shall I do with the one that ran?"
"Feed him to the dogs," the blonde woman answers, wiping blood off her face with the back of her hand.
"And this one, the lucky one?" The monster asks, nodding in my direction.
The woman hands her sword to a male assistant dressed in a long white robe.
"What to do with you?"
Every light in the room illuminates. Voices extinguish like spent matches and those remaining turn to watch. She steps closer, heels clicking like gunshots in my brain, pale blue eyes sparkling with mirth and hate. Standing close enough to taste of her pale flesh, she whispers in my ear.
"I pardon you."
A shiver passes over me, but I don't answer. I wouldn't know what's proper to say.
"Go now before she changes her mind. Run, boy," the monster pushes me back the way I arrived. I trace my steps as fast as my legs will allow, filled with wobble and water. Slamming my hand on the doorknob, I pull with all my strength, but the door won't open. It's locked and a wave of nausea washes over me. I close my eyes and count to regulate my breathing. Don't have a panic attack!
The clicking begins again, the sound growing louder in my skull with each step she takes in my direction. I can't open my eyes. I don't want to see.
She presses into my body, the blood on her dress cold and sticky. The sensation of the blood with the reverberation of the endless clicking unnerves me. Wetness runs down my leg and I can't even feel shame at urinating in front of her because I'm so afraid.
"Sleep," she whispers, plunging a needle into my neck.
I manage one scream before the spinning takes me down into the blackness.
5.0 out of 5 stars matryoshka doll of a story inside a story
January 7, 2019 Verified Purchase Stephen Moran’s writing style is casual current and probably not like any other author you’ve read! I turned each page because it was so drawing but also I really wanted to see where Moran was taking the story(stories). I love not figuring out the twists and turns!! At the end I couldn’t help wonder if Moran was just setting things up and there will be even more. Sequel? I hope so because there was one character in particular I’d love to see reappear. Or am I only dreaming? The Terrorist Of Providence Street was one hell of a cool read!
Excellent character development... Tightly woven narrative. December 30, 2018
L.M. Bryski delivers a thriller that has every element necessary for great storytelling. Characters with elaborate backstories are revealed over time via tasteful use of flashbacks. A prop triggers the memory of a detective and leads him in the right direction. Medical/scientific backdrop is used in a way that suggests the author knows a thing or two on the topics she writes about. It’s a tightly woven narrative with realistic characters with whom I empathize.
Blood Chill takes place in the city of Janus, and the novel spans throughout a great deal of the community. Ranging from those who inhabit the newly renovated homeless shelter to the rich who run the show, there’s no class or age group left unaddressed.
These characters have the greatest pull in the story. They’re so well fleshed out and realistic, flawed and funny, weighed upon by the past and other regrets. Commentary between police officers is the main source with comic relief, and I found myself enjoying the banter of Roy Fletcher whenever he’s on the page.
I find it difficult to review thrillers of this nature because I want to delve into the details that hooked me, the feeling when there’s an epiphany regarding a narrative arc, and my thoughts on the villain(s). The fun of these reads is in unraveling the mystery, and I loathe to give anything away.
With that in mind I’ll keep it short. If you’re looking for a smart, funny, and at times culturally satirical thriller with a scientific backdrop then you must check out Blood Chill by L.M. Bryski.