For Rye

For Rye by Gavin Gardiner

Renata Wakefield, a traumatised novelist on the brink of suicide, is drawn back to her childhood hometown following her mother’s ritualistic murder. Before long, she becomes ensnared in the mysteries of Millbury Peak as one question lies heavy: Who killed Sylvia Wakefield?

As the answer draws nearer, as madness continues to envelop the quaint country town, Renata will come to realise that the key to all this insanity lies with one man – the world’s leading writer of horror fiction. His name is Quentin C. Rye, and he will guide her to the revelation that true madness lies within.

Discovering that the darkness of her family’s history runs deeper than she ever could have imagined, Renata Wakefield’s eyes will finally be opened to one single, hideous truth, which will awaken a long-dormant evil.

The IndieMuse Review

When we first meet Renata Wakefield she is on a train bound for Millbury Peak, returning home for the first time in twenty-five years to attend the funeral of her recently deceased mother, who was found murdered in the now abandoned church formerly presided over by her abusive father. In her luggage, she carries only two things. Her train ticket, and a noose.

What follows is a harrowing tale of family and loss, murder and betrayal. As Renata tries to simultaneously come to terms with her mother’s untimely death and caring for her ailing father, she finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a murderer whose knowledge of her past sparks dangerous memories that Renata thought long since buried.

While marketed as a psychological thriller, For Rye puts the reader very firmly in horror territory, with scenes of startling violence and shocking brutality. The book’s lead is a bold choice for the main protagonist in many respects, and the reasons why that is the case morph and change as the book progresses. In fact, For Rye has a great many twists and turns in store for its reader and while Gardiner deftly sows the seeds early on for the mayhem which is to come, the direction the book ultimately goes is far from predictable.

The set-up will be one that horror readers will find familiar. A seemingly ritual murder in a small town. Throw in a famous horror writer, an abandoned church and a creepy cemetery and there is a lot here that suggest cozy, recognizable horror tropes. These only serve to lull the average horror reader into a false sense of familiarity before the book goes in an unexpectedly dark and ultimately wildly volatile direction. The story shifts from a small-town murder mystery to a much more gritty, almost Ketchum-esque grounded, ultra-violent horror fest, with flashbacks throughout offering a downbeat coming of age tale.

My only real issue is that the book is perhaps overly busy, with a few too many subplots and side characters who are somewhat unnecessary to the overall plot. Some pacing and narrative choices feel a little odd, but then that may well be the point. When your narrator, the readers guide through the book, opens the story discussing how she is suicidal and we see her mental state gradually decline from there, it’s hard to deny that a challenging approach to how the story is told doesn’t feel somewhat apt in the context.

For Rye may hint at being standard psychological thriller fare early on, this is a very different beast once the story gets going. This is a relentlessly bleak love letter to the horror genre. Not an easy read, and certainly not for the squeamish, but a bold and memorable book, big on ideas and bursting at the seams with creativity and unpredictability.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.


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