Whether it be a film, a book, or even a campfire tale, I take every opportunity to indulge in a good horror story. I don’t know what it is about tales of ghouls, vampires, ghosts, and slashers, but there is something about them that keeps my adrenaline flowing; I’m forever chasing a story that is destined to become a new classic. And during these quests to find a diamond in the rough, I find a copious amount of mediocre stories that rely on stale tropes and do not dare to cross boundaries nor break new ground.
Don’t Read by Matt Shaw is not one of these tired tales.
This novella was an uncomfortable venture into the world of a complete psychopath as he documents his killing spree in graphic detail, leaving nothing omitted from his journal. The narrative structure was highly innovative as the switch from third person to first person perspective gives the reader an opportunity to a glimpse further into the mind of a madman. After the first few pages, the story moves like a derailed bullet train with no brakes, taking the reader on a guided tour of hell before they ever get a chance to fasten their seat belt.
Even though I would highly recommend this to fans of horror, there were parts of this story that felt a bit forced. Much of the violence seemed excessive to the point of gratuity, even when veiled through the eyes of a madman. And as for the story itself, I enjoyed it immensely but it lacked a certain depth necessary for it to achieve classic status.
This book is not easy to assign a rating and no critique should ever be taken at face-value. What appeals to me might not work for everyone. Gorehounds would likely call for a five-stars while fans of high-brow psychological horror would probably view this as blood-soaked pulp that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Personally though, I really dug this story and immediately bought another five of Matt Shaw’s books after reading this. This is great writing by a fantastic author, and even though it never fully emerges out of its campy, splattery, B-Movie roots, don’t let that keep you from checking it out.