Book Review: The Detained by Kristopher Triana

“An engaging and entertaining read that will keep you gripped from beginning to end.”

His earlier work has drawn praise from sites like Publisher’s Weekly and Rue Morgue, while Jack Ketchum referred to his forthcoming novel Full Brutal (Grindhouse Press, 2018) as “compulsive reading”. It seems that Kristopher Triana has burst onto the horror scene in a big way. Indeed, his debut novel, The Ruin Season (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, 2016) garnered almost universal critical acclaim, with many reviewers praising his brutal honesty and his ability to tackle difficult social issues. In his latest book, he takes a small group of people and forces them to come to terms with a tragic event from their past, and also to pay the price for the part they each played.

The majority of The Detained takes place in the cafeteria of a high school where Phoebe, Tyler, Sandy and Bill attended as teenagers and have now returned for their reunion. But they arrive to find no other former students, only their former gym coach, the curmudgeonly Noah Dixon, who believes he is there to be honoured at an award ceremony for his years of service. Triana tells the story from the view point of each of the small cast of characters, each taking turns to reflect on their formative years and their feelings towards their fellow attendees. The unease they each feel about the situation soon leads to paranoia and fear, especially when they discover “surprises” left on the seats tucked beneath the tables, beginning with a solitary shotgun shell.

These items combined with the eerie circumstances soon lead the characters to recall a former pupil who took his own life after years of torment and bullying at the hands of his peers and teachers. Through the inner thoughts of each of the characters, we are told the story of Graham Mullen and shown the part each of the characters played in his demise. Some feel remorse and guilt while others refuse to accept any responsibility at all. Triana drip feeds us Graham’s story, intertwining it with the increasingly creepy events occurring in the school cafeteria which proves inescapable and a cell phone black spot.

The book has been described as a mix of movies The Breakfast Club and The Thing, which is a fair description. The group of mismatched ‘students’, none of them ever fitting comfortably into each other’s social groups, having to endure a detention of sorts with a non-sympathetic teacher-figure. The addition of the items left on the seats and the isolation from the outside world, as well as the growing paranoia, ramps up the tension in a very effective manner. Triana’s pacing is excellent, as is his depiction of the strained relationships between the characters and his description of the growing supernatural presence that threatens to devour everyone. The outcome is unclear until the very end and we cannot be sure who—if anyone—will survive.

Triana does an excellent job of exploring each of the characters while keeping the story moving forward. The flashbacks are handled well, giving just enough detail each time to provide insight without taking the reader out of the story completely. His imagery is extremely vivid, especially towards the end of the book when the supernatural presence really comes out to play. All of this, combined with Triana’s dark story-telling style, delivers an engaging and entertaining read that will keep you gripped from beginning to end. The pacing, characterisation, imagery, and storytelling is executed perfectly. A fine example of why the novella length is so perfectly-suited to the horror genre.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing
Paperback: 112pp
Release Date: 6 March 2018

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