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Why, yes, it is another Jonathan Janz book and I can’t seem to get enough of his horror writing. And no, I’m not being paid one quid to promote his stuff (gasp!!!), and I actually like his stuff. And apparently he’s listening to my thoughts and writing tons of books every year. Maybe I should keep that part about him “listening to my thoughts” to myself. Too crazy? Oh well, enough with the bollocks and on with the review. Yeah?

Roderick Wells is the most celebrated yet reclusive writer in the world. So when ten “lucky” writers are offered an exclusive invitation to his summer-long writing retreat, their dreams are aglow with riches and literary fame. They, however, are instructed not to tell ANYONE about this invitation since that would be an automatic disqualification. Maybe it’s just me but that qualifies as red flag behaviour. I’ve seen enough horror movies that start with that premise … they never end good. Or maybe I need to get out more. Maybe. The winner of this contest gets three million dollars and a recommendation to the publisher, of their dreams, to publish their books. Upon arriving the participants are made to wear blindfolds and are taken into a strange forest that has a Gothic-type mansion in the middle of nowhere. Yes, more screaming red flags that even Stevie Wonder can see on a dark, moonless night. Among the writers is Lucy, an actual published Young Adult (YA) writer that had great but short-lived success with one book and has yet to write another for over a decade. There is also the unpublished Rich and rising star Elaine. And there are few sociopaths within, Anna and Bryan. During their first meeting with an old Roderick Wells and his alluring youthful wife, Amanda, Rich receives a scary premonition about Roderick. And the shit hits the fan. With no access to the Internet but a great sprawling library available, the writers have to create stories and everyday are selected to read their stories to everyone else (I once took a class like that … one the best English classes I ever took in college). The genre was selected by Wells and it turns out to be (wait for it) … horror. Yes. Writers that are found lacking are treated to acidic criticism by Wells who make Simon Cowell seem like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. And they are eventually “eliminated” or as Wells would put it … “sent home”. Sort of like saying that the ailing Fluffy was being sent off to that “wonderful” farm to roam freely with all the other animals. Even more disturbing is that the eliminated writers tend to leave without their possessions, which Wells’ manservant, Wilson, claims that he’ll take care of it. Sure thing, mate. The strange thing is that as writers become “eliminated” Wells seem to get younger and strange things start to appear in and around his mansion. Maybe it is just the atmosphere. Yeah, and I’m the Queen of England. Strangely enough, what started out as a seemingly random gathering of writers turns out to be anything but. They are all bound by pasts filled with misdeeds and skeletons (some literally) in the closet. And no … I’m not going to spell out those misdeeds that ranged from bloody sleazy to viciously disturbing. Yes, I’d be a tosser if I robbed you of all the fun. So there.
Roderick Wells is Hannibal Lector (without the cannibalism … I think) meets Julie Andrews (minus the cheery demeanour) with a hint of Dracula (minus the fangs … I think). A good portion of the book was dedicated to revisiting the sordid, dark pasts of these writers, which adds beautifully to story and will easily evoke emotions for these characters. Basically those you’d love to see live or die (gruesomely). But be careful and choose wisely (or play it safe and don’t choose at all), because this IS a Jonathan Janz book. Don’t become attached to characters. You’ve been warned. Enjoy the read.

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