Gritty, gruesome and with a deft touch of dark humour, this horror-thriller from prolific British novelist David Jester pulls no punches, but will keep strong-stomached readers hooked from start to finish.
The book is the second in Jester’s six-book deal with respected international publishers Skyhorse, and is a dramatic contrast to its predecessor, the laugh-out-loud comedy An Idiot in Love.
This Is How You Die
is an ultra-dark tale recounted from the twisted perspective of a serial killer, who prides himself on ‘hating everybody equally’.
But although it is filled with graphic descriptions of gory killings, Jester’s trademark dry humour is still in evidence in the scathing way that anti-hero protagonist, Herman, describes the people and the situations that surround him.
It’s also an adept piece of social commentary about the situations that can drive mentally ill, emotionally disturbed young people to commit unspeakable acts of violence. Herman is a bullied, socially inept teenager, who feels that he can only earn respect by instilling fear.
The book opens with teenage Herman being brutally beaten up by the school bullies - an act which has become as much part of his day-to-day life as brushing his teeth in the morning.
He seethes with rage at the bullies, and fantasises about enacting bloody revenge. His hero is ‘the Butcher’ - a serial killer who carves up his victims after their demise.
An antisocial teenager with no friends, and whose mother has apparently abandoned him, Herman is an emotionless, obsessive and hate-filled teen who barely bothers to disguise the scorn he feels for every other human on the planet.
He is being raised by his father - an ultra-polite, much-loved member of the local community who he has witnessed exploding into fits of violent rage at home, and who dies in the early pages of the novel.
Unmoved by his father’s death and entrusted to the care of a hard-drinking uncle, Herman makes a bloody discovery - his ‘pillar of the community’ father was none other than The Butcher. Rather than being horrified, Herman is thrilled - and vows to continue his father’s ‘work’.
Herman’s initial attempts to carry on the Butcher’s legacy are met with frustration, and he realises that he should focus on carving out his own killer identity.
Embarking on a killing spree that goes beyond anything even The Butcher could have carried out, Herman assumes a new identity and lives in the shadows, waiting to strike again.
But while many people assume Herman's vengeful killing spree ended after taking the ultimate revenge against the schoolmates that mocked him mercilessly, Homicide Detective Lester Keats believes he is still active.
A gruesome game of cat-and-mouse begins, and the page-turning pace does not let up. There’s a spectacularly theatrical piece-de-resistance from Herman as the book draws towards its conclusion which particularly riveted this reviewer’s attention.
By no means a book for the faint of heart, This Is How You Die is a clever horror-thriller that goes beyond OTT gratuitous violence (although there is plenty of that, for those who enjoy splatter).
It’s a masterly examination of the mind of a twisted serial killer akin to disturbing yet critically acclaimed ‘80s film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Anti-social, manipulative and utterly callous, teenage killer Herman is an utterly redeemless horror figures that readers will find hard to forget.
This Is How You Die by David Jester (Skyhorse) is available now, priced £11.99 in paperback and £7.59 as an eBook. Visit david-jester.com