“Dearborn is not afraid of the dark, nor does she flinch at shocking, brutal violence and her characters face plenty of it as they race to save Trisha’s missing son from the clutches of a demon.”
Recently there have been a lot of novels published that could be thought of as action-horror fiction. Motorman, by Robert E. Dunn is one, as is Christopher Buehlman’s The Suicide Motor Club. Another book that falls firmly under that heading is Kristin Dearborn’s most recent novel from Raw Dog Screaming Press, Stolen Away. While not necessarily a new voice on the scene, many readers may not yet be familiar with her, but that will likely change soon. She’s too damn good not to sit up and take notice of. Dearborn’s no stranger to the horror scene, having several previous publications that have enjoyed success and proved her to be a force to be reckoned with in horror fiction. She’s got a knack for taking something that seems, on the surface, to be an old trope and making it into a thing that is purely Kristin Dearborn. Woman in White, her most recent novella from Darkfuse is a perfect sample of this. It’s a tale that takes a tired and oft used urban legend and turns it into something completely new and unexpected. And, as with that book, so it is with Stolen Away, but on a much grander scale.
Historically, Kristin Dearborn has shown herself to have a strong grasp of action, mood, and setting, writing stories that travel at Amtrak speeds and dump you out at the end long before you see it coming. In Stolen Away, she’s taken those storytelling elements and raised them to new and loftier heights. In addition, she’s upped the ante with the best character development she’s done to date, revealing herself to be a true professional in that aspect, always improving with each successive work. And she has improved on literally all aspects of storytelling here, delivering a tale that is terrifying, emotional, and human.
Like all great stories, Stolen Away begins with action, saving backstory for later and yanking us throat first into the story:
…Then Kourtney screamed. Instead of galvanizing Trisha to move forward, it seemed to bolt her feet to the thin carpet. Kourtney screamed again and again, barely pausing to draw breaths.
A thought finally broke Trisha’s freeze: Goddammit, the neighbors are going to call protective services.
She flew to the door and found it locked, the knob strangely hot in her hand. Yes, it was a beastly hot night, but this felt hot like a fire burned on the other side.
You find yourself immediately engaged from the first sentence of the book, the mood instantaneously dark and insidious and the pace breathtaking in its unexpected suddenness. Dearborn captures her reader with that immediate action and wastes no time getting her story rolling and doing nothing but gaining momentum as it speeds along, and as she begins to build backstory you start to learn the true power of her story, which lies in her first-rate character building skills.
Stolen Away brings to life one of the strongest, most self-empowered female characters to come along in ages, as Trisha and her ex-boyfriend Joel track and repeatedly confront the creature known as DEMON, an ageless monster who has stolen her infant son from her and torn her whole world asunder. As she feeds us information about Joel and Trisha’s history together and the checkered past they’re trying to put behind them, Dearborn draws you further and further into her narrative, leaving you wanting nothing so much as to lose yourself in the story until the last page has been turned and you’ve experienced the final unexpected twist that resolves the story so perfectly. You become so invested in Trisha and Joel as people that you can’t help but following along, mostly on the edge of your seat and hoping that everything turns out well for them. But Dearborn is not afraid of the dark, nor does she flinch at shocking, brutal violence and her characters face plenty of it as they race to save Trisha’s missing son from the clutches of a demon.
Another strong characteristic of Kristin’s fiction is setting. Every single character interaction, every action scene, is in the exact location it needs to be in, giving off strong visuals and causing you to experience the scene more intensely, more vividly. Whether it’s an encounter at a rave being held in an abandoned warehouse, or a tense, brutal battle in a deserted library, the setting always contributes to the scenario and you always feel firmly grounded in the location. You know exactly where you are, what it looks like, smells like, sounds like, whatever. Dearborn can build a set with the best writers in the business and she does so here with the deft confidence of a master painter composing a masterpiece.
Dearborn has become a consummate wordsmith, her storytelling abilities growing and expanding in leaps and bounds, and Stolen Away is her finest and most entertaining work to date. Her characters are perfect—and perfectly broken—adding impact, meaning, and entertainment value to an already superb tale of supernatural menace, in-your-face action, and bloodshed aplenty. Stolen Away has something to satisfy most any fan of horror and the occult, and Kristin Dearborn brings more to the table with every outing, leaving one to suspect that an already high bar will do nothing but go up from here. If you’re a Dearborn fan, you’ll be delighted with Stolen Away, and if you’re new to her work, this is most definitely the place to start.
SHANE DOUGLAS KEENE
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press
Release Date: 24 June, 2016
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