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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Cold Kiss" by John Rector (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official John Rector Website
Order "The Cold Kiss" HERE

John Rector lives with his family in Omaha, Nebraska. He's an accomplished short story writer who has contributed fiction to several publications, including The Seattle Review, Black October Magazine, NFG, The Edge: Tales of Suspense, The 13th Warrior Review, Prose Ax. He also won the Porterhouse prize.

John Rector has worked previously as musician, Mac technician, network engineer, etc. He previously e-published his book "The Grove" which became an Amazon bestseller & now will re-released by Amazon's Encore publishing arm, while this book is his print debut. It has also been optioned and a film is in development.

BOOK BLURB: All Nate and Sara want is a new life in a new town, away from the crime and poverty of their past. So, after being approached at a roadside diner by a man offering $500 for a ride to Omaha, they wonder if their luck might be changing. At first it seems like easy money, but within a few hours the man is dead.

Now, forced off the road by a blizzard and trapped in a run-down motel on the side of a deserted highway, Nate and Sara begin to uncover the man's secrets. Who he was, how he died, and most importantly, why he was carrying two million dollars in his suitcase. Before they know it, Nate and Sara are fighting for their lives, and in the end, each has to decide just how far they are willing to go to survive.

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 285 pages divided over forty-three chapters, three parts and a geographically titled section which serves as an epilogue of sorts. The narration is in the first person from Nate's POV. The Cold Kiss is a solo thriller.

ANALYSIS: John Rector's The Cold Kiss opens up in a café and introduces us to the main characters, Nate who is contemplative and reserved & Sara who's talkative and extrovert. They wish to escape their previous lives and get away from Minnesota and all the snow. Their destination is Reno and they can't seem to go there any faster. On a routine pit stop at a café, Sara notices another customer who's coughing as if he were terminal ill. She asks Nate to check him up and though her partner is a bit reluctant, he complies. However his cordial questions are rebuffed and the man leaves.

As soon as they fill up their gas tanks and are about to leave, the man with the cough returns and introduces himself as Sylvester White and offers them five hundred dollars for a ride to Omaha. Nate is still hesitant, but Sara jumps at the opportunity and agrees to take him along.

On the way, Sylvester's cough worsens and they have to make a stop as the snow storm catches up with them. They find a slightly rundown motel which luckily offers them succor. Checking upon Sylvester, they are surprised to find blood soaked bandages on his chest and the mystery man appears to be near death's door. What is extraordinary about the situation is that they also find almost two million dollars upon him & now they have to make some hard decisions as to what they will do regarding the cash and the near-dead man with them.

From here the story kicks into high gear as the choice Nate makes, leaves them suspicious about everyone. What further complicates their stay in the motel is that the people around them appear to be equally laconic and a bit strange. The plot then kicks in as the reappearance of a certain thing causes even more grief for Nate & Sara.

The story virtually explodes as circumstances keep on changing and suspicions arise about Nate and Sara. They are forced to make harder choices which keep on unraveling. Also what goes against them is the fact that both of them are young people who have had previously troubled lives and therefore are damaged in their own ways. Psychologically, they aren't equipped for such circumstances, especially Nate who is haunted by his headaches as well as his past mistakes.

As the story unfolds there are revelations about his past which showcase him in a totally different light. The night wears on and the other characters in the motel start interacting with Nate & Sara and perhaps get a clue as to what might have happened to Sylvester. Finally in this mix is also the name which Sylvester keeps on muttering to himself before his lapsing into unconsciousness - Lilith who is the woman that Sylvester is running away from.

John Rector has delivered a very taut tale which will keep the readers on their strung nerves as frequently the tale twists and then turns making it very hard to guess the eventual outcome. The added claustrophobia of the snowed-in motel, the devious nature of the tale and the quite difficult to decipher characters were main draws for me. The novel is set within the space of 2-3 days and the author keeps an unrelenting pace.

I read The Cold Kiss within one sitting as the story kept me hooked from its beginning, all the way to its gruesome end. The prose is very effective and manages to draw the reader in, whilst not being overtly dramatic.

The Cold Kiss is a very accomplished print debut for John and this also led me to read his previously published book "The Grove" which was a horror-thriller with elements of the fantastic and it was possibly one of the darkest themed books I have ever read. I'll be reviewing "The Grove" around its release date in November.

Thus after reading both of his titles I can safely vouch that John Rector is one of this year's talents so don't be shy to give "The Cold Kiss" a try and find out why this guy has been perceived by many as a superb story teller.



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