After reading a vibrant fantasy (The Belles) and a funny, heartfelt contemporary (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), I was in the mood for something a little darker. 😈 Christopher Graves’ Sinner sounded like the perfect fix! Based on his award-winning screenplay, this novel is both compelling and terrifying in its realism. Here’s a short synopsis:
As a direct descendant of the 19th century vigilante gang, the Bald Knobbers, Ezekiel Woods, Jr. has been indoctrinated into a world ruled by violence and a literal interpretation of the Bible his entire life. Now, over a hundred years later, Zeke continues his ancestors’ crusade, spending his days camouflaged as an aloof, middle-aged grocery store sacker and his nights in a farmhouse cellar, preparing captives’ souls for their ultimate destiny: redemption or death. His latest abductee, an indomitable Texan working her way through a third-life crisis, chooses another option: escape. Zeke must recapture this lost sheep or face a consequence far worse than any worldly fate: that God has forsaken him.
What I Liked: This book was hard to put down, and it definitely creeped me out. 😱 While I enjoy scary stories that deal with otherworldly or paranormal forces, there’s something very real and frightening about a killer that could plausibly exist in our world. I think Graves handled the different timelines very well, and the overall pacing was great. It really kept me on the edge of my seat! And he also did an excellent job at developing his characters, and especially providing enough backstory and motivation to create both tension and a layered wholeness that makes them seem real.
What I Disliked: When it comes to violence in books, I need it to have a strong reason for being there. I don’t think the inclusion of violence for the sake of violence — or “shock value” violence — necessarily adds anything to a story. Much of the violence in this book seemed purposeful, while some of it seemed, at times, a little excessive. (But I will say that this book isn’t overly gory by any means.) I think it’s important to emphasize that this story deals a lot with violence against women, and that’s definitely something a reader should keep in mind before jumping in.
There were a few moments where I felt disoriented or confused, as if I had missed an important detail. (And it’s possible that I did.) But I did wonder if this story is just better suited for a screenplay rather than a novel. 🤔 There’s no question in my mind that Graves is a talented writer, and his prose is strong and lends itself to visualization. However, I did keep wondering how different my experience would be as a viewer rather than a reader.
Overall, this is a book that I would absolutely recommend to horror fans, or readers who enjoy fast-paced, creepy stories. I don’t think I connected with it as much as I hoped I would, and it’s possible that I was expecting things to play out a little differently. But it’s a solid piece of writing that succeeds at pulling you in and keeping you locked in its grip until the end.
Publication Date: April 5th
About the Author: Christopher Graves
**Thank you to Smith Publicity Inc. for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.