Short and slick suspense thriller
The Victorians loved a touch of Gothic in their stories – a creeping sense of menace to send an enjoyable chill down the reader’s spine. Although Carolyn Stubbs’ debut story is set firmly in the 21st century, it retains a Gothic feeling of unease on each page. The mystery begins when a stranger arrives at an English monastery at midnight. Georgio Stefano has made bad choices in his life. Even now, when he unburdens himself to the holy men who give him succour, he doesn’t realise exactly how much trouble he is in.
This is a novella, so every word has to count. There is a lot going on in the book’s 46 pages, including a scary diversion into the paranormal. Thriller fans will enjoy the twists emerging once Georgio decides he must atone for his sins.
Murder, mystery and horror
Although a suspense thriller, the tale segues into murder, mystery and horror. It should therefore appeal to readers of those genres too. Most of all, it reminds me of 19th century favourites like MR James’ “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad”, Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” – all of which I read on a beach as a teenager during one hot summer. (I admit this is strange behaviour.) Tightly written and imaginative, “Death Strikes Back” is a real page turner. Although I loved the ending, I was sad to finish the book.
The paperback is well-priced
My only gripe – a minor one – is that the publishers are clearly angling for print sales. The paperback version is well-priced; the ebook less so. Having said that, the prices are competitive with MR James books of a similar length.
Carolyn Stubbs is an exciting new talent and this slice of 21st century Gothic is well worth reading.
If you like a bite-sized read, try my free short stories here.