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Amber's Thoughts

Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series



Don't Read This at Bedtime!

Six Dead Spots - Gregor Xane

 Compelling and disturbing. Don’t read this at bed-time.
 Horror at its best creeps in through the door of the ordinary, and Six Dead Spots delivers it this way.  Frank, a graphic designer, has a mildly abnormal experience, a symptom, the sort of thing that the reader can easily identify with.  The author crafts the entry to a nightmare from events and characters many of us find unnerving—encounters with the health care system, the flawed providers we are limited to by our plans, medical testing and uncertain diagnoses, and the side-effects of over-promoted prescription drugs.
 Brand names are a pervasive feature in the landscape of this book, fictitious brands with cheerily realistic names that call attention to their invasion of our lives. Brand names and lowest common denominator popular media are everywhere, giving a superficial, disconnected and satirically ordinary aspect to the normality that is gradually punctured by the abnormal.
 The suspense builds ceaselessly. Settings come to life with tight, vivid language. Each character is drawn with deftness of a sketch artist by showing them in thought, dialog and action, never telling their traits.
 I enjoy horror novels and yet at a certain point in almost all of them I reach a point where my mind says, not believable. I finish them anyway. To me, subtlety is more terrifying than gross monstrosity. (Other readers of the genre must not have this problem, since this moment seems to be a consistent feature in every book.) Xane handles the transition to that point in his story well, keeping little elements of the ordinary and the subtle in the scene where what I’ll call “the big scariness” is revealed. I was so fully submerged in Frank's experience that the question of believability barely hiccupped into my consciousness.
 The knock-out punch at the end made me go back and reread the book. After a second reading, I was still left with level of ambiguity about Frank’s experiences. If that was the author’s intention, he succeeded. I went for a run after and was still thinking about it. What happened?
 This book’s problems are minor.
 The point of view shift in the middle of chapter nine was startling. After eight chapters in close third person from Frank’s POV, it took me a moment to realize I was now seeing his brother’s perspective even though the author makes no errors in how he sets it up. The shift to Steve’s POV is central to making the story work, and the choice to wait late in the plot to do it is, while unusual, done for a solid reason. Doing it in mid-chapter is perhaps not the ideal place, though. All the other chapters have only one POV, and as short as these chapters are, the consistent use of that structure would, in my opinion, work more smoothly.

As for my warning--I mean it. I had a dream about that scary baby-doll arm!