Wandering around Barnes and Noble, a cover caught my eye:
Pretty, isn’t it? Now, the blurb put the book firmly into the “I’m intrigued” category, but I already had a few books in my pile, so this went into my library category. It had just been released, so it didn’t take long before it came in. (My library never seems to have what I’m looking for, so I have to use interlibrary loan.)
That evening, I put aside the other book I’m reading and cracked this one open. Though it sucked me in, it wasn’t enough for a one night read. In fact, it took several attempts to finish it. It’s not that the book is bad, it’s just…odd.
Though ostensibly about the death of a confessed killer known as “The Devil’s Advocate,” the plot is about so much more, and it’s told in several modalities (case notes, interviews, journals, among others). The switch in format is smooth and adds to the story instead of detracts from it.
The problem is, from the outset, the reader knows that Grayson Hale is an unreliable narrator. He’s a murderer, after all. Unreliable narrators are difficult to pull off, but by and large, Luke Dumas does a fine job, and any time the reader just might entirely believe Grayson, we’re reminded that he’s possibly insane.
Even that isn’t a bad thing. Where I struggled is that so much of the book is intensely bleak, just depressing. I didn’t want to read any more because there was no way things would get better. Ever. I wasn’t looking for a HEA, just maybe a bright spot or two for poor Grayson.
As I turned the last few pages, there was a moment when I hated the end. It felt too trite, too preachy. I felt let down…until the last few sentences of the book. Those I did NOT see coming, and redeemed the denouement.
Would I recommend A History of Fear? Maybe. Honestly, it would depend on you as a reader. Can you handle deep darkness in a book? Are you triggered by cult like religiosity? How do you feel about unreliable narrators? The answers to those questions would determine my recommendation. It isn’t a book for everyone and will likely divide reviewers.
This one you’ll have to figure out for yourself.