I bring you a hybrid book that combines two genres I am a fan of. I enjoyed it!
Our Trespasses: A Paranormal Thriller by Michael Cordell
Deliver us from evil…
Drowning in a meaningless existence flipping burgers, Matthew Davis suddenly collapses from a powerful psychic connection he shares with his twin brother, Jake. The pain is violent and immediate, and Matt knows exactly what it means… hundreds of miles away, Jake has been viciously killed. But instead of severing their connection, the murder intensifies it and Matt begins to suffer the agony of Jake’s afterlife.
Hell bent on solving Jake’s murder in order to break the connection, Matt travels to his troubled hometown of Hatchett, Nebraska, where an old lover and savage new enemies expose the festering wounds that Jake left behind.
Matt tries atoning for Jake’s sins, but when a demon infests the connection between the two brothers, Matt must find a way to sever their bond before his world, and ours, become engulfed in the flames of hell.
Fans of Stephen King’s The Outsider, Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist will find this new paranormal thriller impossible to put down.
Here is the link to the publishers website:
About the author:
Michael Cordell is a novelist, playwright and produced screenwriter. His first novel, “Contempt”, is an Amazon Best Seller and Amazon Top 10 Legal Thriller. He has sold three screenplays to Hollywood, including “Beeper”, an action-thriller starring Harvey Keitel and Joey Lauren Adams.
Michael currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
You can reach Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org
I thank TCK Publishing (Maria Inot in particular) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.
I had never read any novels by Michael Cordell, but once I started to read this one, I was hooked. His experience working as a screenwriter (and a screenwriting teacher) comes through, as there are some scenes in this book so vividly rendered that it is impossible not to see them playing inside your head while you read it. And, they aren’t always comfortable viewing either! (I’m not sure I’ll look at a clothes closet the same way again, but I will not go into it to avoid spoilers).
This novel offers an interesting combination of genres. Although it is not the first time I come across a mystery/thriller with paranormal/horror elements (I’ve enjoyed Hyde by Craig Russell and The Coven Murders by Brian O’Hare, for example), this one has some interesting elements that might appeal to people who don’t normally read in either of those genres. The main character, Matthew (Matt) Davis, is not a detective or a policeman, but a pretty normal guy whose brother has been killed. We are aware, from the very beginning of the story, that he had a special connection with his twin brother Jake, but we soon learn what this truly means in the current circumstances. Although he ends up investigating his brother’s death, this is not out of revenge or even to try to get his brother’s murderer to justice, but for a pretty different reason. The paranormal element, which starts pretty low-key, moves onto full-blown horror towards the end of the novel, and I am not revealing anything unduly when I say that hell and demons play a big part in the story (and there are crows. Those of you who loved Hitchcock’s The Birds will nod in recognition at several scenes in the book).
I think these two genres mix quite well in this particular novel, as long as readers are willing to suspend their disbelief and not stick to the specifics of either genre (the mystery-thriller especially). In fact, I think the combination of the two genres works to keep us guessing and makes it more difficult for us to focus on solving either aspect of the story (because there are several mysteries and a lot of secrets hiding in this narrative). Although the pace of the novel is more contemplative than many thrillers are, the tension builds up slowly but ramps up towards the end, and its particular rhythm allows us to get to know the main character (whose point of view we follow —although narrated in the third person— the whole story) and to get a good picture of the little Nebraskan town where the story takes place. Of course, the author does not reveal everything about the character, and although we might have some suspicion about what really happened in the past, the ending brings some interesting twists to the story.
Apart from the novels mentioned in the above description, the story also had elements that made me think of The Dry by Jane Harper. The grown-up man coming back to his hometown after many years away to attend a funeral (in that case that of a friend, rather than his brother), and the descriptions of the weather, the place, and the secrets brought it to my mind, although there are no paranormal elements there. And I also thought about A Nightmare on Elm Street more than once (although no Freddy here).
I liked Matt well enough, even though his life seemed to be very unfocused and low-key to begin with, stuck and unable to move on for no clear reason. Things become clearer as we read on, and we get to understand his actions and empathise with him by the end. I also appreciated Matt’s sharp and dry wit, and his somewhat dark sense of humour, especially evident at the beginning of the novel (seeing the funny side of things gets difficult as the days pass). Jake… We get different versions of Jake, and although he is not a sympathetic character, he is an intriguing one, and not as one-sided as he appears at the beginning. I liked Claire. Although we don’t get to know her very well, she has done the best of a bad situation, and she is supportive, tries hard to do the right thing, and is a friend to her friends. I loved Andy. He is a fantastic character, and I would happily read a whole book about him. He also provides some light relief to the story (but he has some eerie moments as well)! The twin’s mother is a character I would have liked to learn more about, and I would also have liked to know more about the family dynamics, but that would have slowed the story down and turned it into something else.
The book abounds on reflections about guilt, duty, family ties and relationships, loyalty, small-town politics, faith and religious belief, the need to forgive and move on… The protagonist is faced with some impossibly tough decisions, and although not in the same circumstances, many readers will empathise with the feeling of being trapped and having no good way out.
I have mentioned the vividness of the writing, and the skill and craft of the writer come through. The story flows well, and although the rhythm is not frantic or typical of a thriller, it keeps you turning the pages (or sweeping them) to learn what is going to happen next. There are beautifully descriptive passages and quite a few hair-raising action scenes that make it into a satisfying reading experience. Remember that you can always check a sample of the book in your e-book store if you want to make sure the writing style fits your taste.
A couple of snippets of the book here:
That was one of the things you could count on in Nebraska: most everyone was nice and more than happy to help. It was already starting to put him on edge.
Skiz had told him a story that sounded as reasonable as talking monkeys riding unicorns, and yet he’d latched onto it as if it were a scientific fact. (If you wondered about the suspension of disbelief, the protagonist has some misgivings as well).
The ending will satisfy most readers, I think. I have mentioned the twists (you might or might not see them coming, but I wouldn’t say they are evident), and because of my particular taste in endings, I would probably have preferred something a bit more nuanced and less final, but that is me. It makes perfect sense in light of the genre combination, but horror for me… must leave us feeling uneasy rather than reassured.
As to recommendations, this is a good and fun read, and people looking for books that combine genres, happy to suspend their disbelief, and not scared of paranormal and horror elements, (and not easily offended by somewhat unorthodox religious references and bad language) will have a great time with this story. I would also recommend it to those who enjoy movies in those genres, as it is very cinematic.
Thanks to the publisher and the author, for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, optimistic (as far as you can), and to keep reading, smiling, and enjoying life to the maximum.