Book Review: Murmur by Patrick Freivald

“Maintaining a dark and gritty atmosphere for a whole book while managing to develop a romance between two strong characters and allowing it to flourish is no mean feat … it makes for one sexy, intriguing, and bloody tale.”

Murmur by Patrick Freivald - coverPatrick Freivald is the four-time Bram Stoker Award nominated author of books such as Blood List (Journalstone, 2013) with co-author Philip Freivald, Jade Sky (Barking Deer Press, 2019) and collection In The Garden of Rusting Gods (Barking Deer Press, 2019), among many others. He has been known to write across many different genres, whether they be horror or thriller or science fiction, but he always tends to lean toward the darker end of the fiction spectrum. A trend which continues with his latest novel.

Davis MacArthur is a world-renowned violinist who seems to have it all; talent, good looks, wealth, a stunning girlfriend, Alisha. But his past is tainted by a battle with depression and psychological problems which led his overbearing mother to have him committed and have herself named as his legal proxy, meaning she controlled his access to the family fortune and could pry into his psychological care. What his mother, girlfriend and everyone else fails to realise is that Davis’s affliction is seeing the world as it truly is, inhabited by all manner of demons. And Davis has his very own, called Murmur, trapped in his medication bottle and bound to him. Thus begins a steamy and bloody trip through Davis’s nightmarish reality as he unwittingly attracts the attention of the sensual and mysterious Chantal, whose demon, unlike Murmur, is tremendously huge. Despite Murmur’s diminutive size, Chantal still covets his power, and torments Davis throughout the book in a desperate attempt to steal him. The wealthy violinist’s world is turned upside down when people connected to him begin dying in horrifically gruesome and violent ways, and soon the eyes of the NYPD are upon him. Unable to confide in anyone about the true nature of the crimes without sounding crazy, he is forced to take desperate measures to fend off the attention of both Chantal and the police. But what will it do to his own mental state?

With Davis MacArthur, Freivald has created an extremely flawed protagonist. Even before he summoned Murmur, he fought with the demon of alcoholism. The introduction of a literal demon, and Davis’s unhealthy attachment to it, serves as a good analogy for his penchant for addiction. His struggles aren’t helped by the playboy lifestyle he has adopted, or his girlfriend’s drug habit. Freivald pays great attention to detail while showing us how the other half live, painting a lavish picture which he juxtaposes perfectly with the graphic gore of Davis’s horrific visions. Eroticism and horror do not often easy bedfellows make, but Freivald accepts the role of matchmaker here with ease and skill.

The story moves along at a steady pace, never lingering too long on exposition, always flowing nicely between scenes. The depth of Davis is explored while he is tortured by the actions of the sinister Chantal, and the visions he is forced to witness. But his unwavering love for his girlfriend offers him a lifeline while he unravels and spirals out of control. And the scenes between the two lovers show the bond they have, and offer respite from the often-stomach-churning scenes of extreme horror (apart from one memorable scene that manages to combine the two; not something easily done, yet Freivald handles it very well).

It is clear to see that Patrick Freivald has developed a strong sense of his own literary style. Maintaining a dark and gritty atmosphere for a whole book while managing to develop a romance between two strong characters and allowing it to flourish is no mean feat. And he doesn’t pull his punches when it comes to describing the body horror. Every organ, every sinew is laid out for the reader to see in glorious ultra-high definition. Throw in a strong supporting cast and it makes for one sexy, intriguing, and bloody tale.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Barking Deer Press
Paperback: 280 (pps.)
Release Date: 13 July 2020

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