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review 2020-06-09 15:55
White Lies
White Lies - Jeremy Bates

by Jeremy Bates


This had me unsettled right away. Katrina is driving with her Boxer dog to a new city to start a new job. Rain is pouring down and when she passes a man hitchhiking, her humanitarianism outweighs her caution about being a woman alone and she offers him a lift. However, within minutes he makes her feel unsettled and having already lied about her destination, she pulls over and demands that he get out of the car.


The little white lie that she was turning off at the next stop seems harmless, but it will set in motion a series of lies that escalate until Katrina finds herself wrapped up in a horrific situation, one lie at a time.


The plot is extremely well done. The spreading of the web of lies and the complications that result was at a pace and done with an artistry that you could easily imagine actually happening, apart from a few events towards the end that felt a little rushed.


The one thing that wasn't realistic was Kat's responses that got her into so much trouble. Mr. Bates should have asked a few women how they would handle the situations because part of being female 101 is how to lie to creepy guys that make you uncomfortable.


Rule number 1: you NEVER cop to living someplace, real or not. Creepy guys are too inclined to follow you home. Whatever the truth is, you're going to someone else's house for an unpleasant reason and no, it wouldn't be okay for someone to go along with you. They might get shot/contaminated or whatever.


You sure as Hell don't mention what street you live on and no, you can't invite people because it's not your cabin and you're just moving out from a violent ex.


How hard is it? Sorry guys, blame the creeps in your midst. For us, it's survival.

If you've pressured a woman or even curb crawled to insist she give you her phone number, don't complain when it turns out to be the number for the local police. I had that one memorized by the time I was 11.


Again, towards the end a few of her actions were outright stupid. I don't want to give spoilers but if you've established someone is dangerous, you get as far away from them as you can and let the police handle it.


The suspense and characterisation were very well done and I will continue to count Jeremy Bates as a Modern Master of Horror, but he really does need to talk to some women about 'what would you do' situations.

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review 2020-05-24 14:48
The Catacombs
The Catacombs - Jeremy Bates

by Jeremy Bates


This is really good.

The story has strong characters with their own individuality and the dynamics between them form a wealth of subplot. Some of the chapters change from first person to third person, but it seems to work and gives some omniscient information about the thoughts of other characters than the narrator.


Parts of it are very intense, claustrophobic, just barely keeping the panic in check... then suddenly I had the giggles. This story is fun!


An interesting array of strange characters pass the main group in their subterranean adventure and add texture to the story. What a long, strange trip it's been!


About halfway, it gets really scary. I don't want to give spoilers but don't let the funny bits and interesting dynamics let you forget that this is a Horror story. It definitely earns its stripes as one in the second half. I know it's cliché, but I really could not stop reading for the last 30%, but had to see what would happen next.


There are a few typos, but not so many that it ruins the narrative and the story is so engrossing that it's hard to care about a few snags. Horror readers will definitely enjoy this one. Docking half a star for the imperfections, but it's a 5 star read!

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review 2020-05-02 14:14
Helltown - Jeremy Bates

by Jeremy Bates

This is the third book in the World's Scariest Places series, which is a series of stand alone books all set in real places that have some sort of creepy folklore about them. I've read two others and they were really good, so I had high hopes for this one.


Helltown is about a place in Ohio that has effectively disappeared now, but had a reputation for meetings of Satanic groups, ghostly sightings and strange occurrences. It seemed like a great set-up for me as I love a good occult story, but unfortunately it let me down. This was mainly a problem with the characters. There wasn't anyone I could feel sympathetic for and the Satanists just weren't believable. It was like someone tried to do Dennis Wheatley and failed.


I can't fault the writing, except for a few passages that make me wonder if Bates might have written this one when he was less experienced. A run-on sentence that gave an info dump on a new character to open chapter 16 made me actually check to see it was the same author!


It's otherwise error-free and very effective writing. Admittedly using the most unlikely group of people possible for the Satanists put me off and effectively made the story lose all credibility, but I might have overlooked that if I could have cared about even one character and whether they would live through the experience.


There is some pretty nasty violence and a shocker at the end, so as a Horror book it ticks all the boxes, except for the occult aspect that might have made me enjoy it more. Slasher readers might love it.

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review 2020-04-05 14:46
Suicide Forest
Suicide Forest - Jeremy Bates

by Jeremy Bates


The first book of Bates' Scariest Places on Earth series. Though the stories are fictional, they are all set in real places that are creepy or scary in some way.


Suicide Forest is just outside of Tokyo, Japan and is actually called Aokigahara Forest, but commonly known as Suicide Forest because it's a place where people go to die. Bodies are often found hanging from trees. There are stories about restless spirits haunting the forest, as you would expect in such a place.


A group of friends decide to explore the forest when weather reports divert them from their original plan of climbing Mount Fuji. They end up camping there, after running into some other people doing the same thing. They encounter natural hazards in the forest in their quest to find morbid evidence of the forest's reputation and there is some antagonism between Ethan and his girlfriend's male friend, John Scott, who came along results in typical male posturing and competition.


When they find the abandoned belongings of a woman, mysterious screams are heard in the night and one of their companions is found hanging dead from a tree in the morning, the situation quickly turns into one of survival in a massive forest where they are lost and running out of supplies.


The book is very well written and scary to the point that I had to stop after a few chapters at a time. Horror enthusiasts will love it! The foreign setting and concerns over whether the authorities would respond in the way those in the characters' own countries would lends a sense of immediacy and disorientation in an already engrossing story.


The explanation for what was happening is close enough to plausible to make a good story as well, but one question was left unanswered and I'm docking half a star for that. Otherwise this is an easy 5 star read.

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text 2020-01-26 19:50
"White Lies" by Jeremy Bates - abandoned at 20%
White Lies - Jeremy Bates

This one failed my "Life's Too Short" test fairly early.


The start is a little disturbing but in all the wrong ways.


I know I should be being gripped by how the small, self-protective lies a woman tells escalate and place her in danger.


I should be feeling sorry for her and recognising that this kind of thing could happen to anyone. Or I should be shouting at her to wake up, deal with the confrontation and save herself.


I'm not doing either of these things because neither she nor the angry, drunk, narcissistic young man threatening her seem real to me. They come across purely as plot devices and the plot isn't attractive. It's shaping up to be another thriller where the "thrill" comes from watching a vulnerable woman being put at risk.


The speed of my decision is mainly down to the writing. When Bates describes places and situations the prose is leaden and as engaging as reading a police report. When Bates takes me inside the head of either the lying young woman or the drunk young man, I don't get to live there, I just get a laboured explanation of what is driving their behaviour that reads more like notes to an actor who will play the characters.


So, I have an unattractive plot, delivered with limping prose and dialogue from characters I don't believe in. Life's too short.

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