Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stirred by J.A. Konrath and Blake Crouch

Over the summer, I became completely obsessed with J.A. Konrath/Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch.  I devoured many of their books, and took a break, wondering if I had a mental disorder for loving the blood, torture, and carnage a little too much.  I never got too hooked on the Jack Daniels series; although she was featured in a few of Konrath's stories, I just couldn't ever picture/identify with her.  Kind of like Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris's books.  But, you know, with decapitations and such.

Stirred called to me, being that I was entirely concerned about the Luther Kite/Andrew Z. Thomas ending in Break You.  The thought of someone being isolated, force fed, mutilated, etc. but still being kept alive, really freaked me the fuck out.  The premise of an ending to all of this was quite promising.

You can definitely read this without having knowledge of the previous Jack Daniels stories, but it's definitely more enjoyable if you've read about Lucy, Donaldson, Kite, and Thomas.  Where Daniels floats from story to story, I find the "killers" more intriguing and unbreakable. 

Stirred picks up 7 years after Thomas was imprisoned, his love Violet, and his son, Max, taken away from him.  Luther Kite is truly planning an awesome revenge against Jack Daniels and others who have wronged him.  Daniels on the other hand is retired and hugely pregnant, essentially engaged to a former fugitive.  She seems uninterested in being a mother, and more focused on her former life of solving crime.  Unfortunately, she needs to be constantly protected by friends and confidantes, for fear that a former killer seeks revenge.

At the same time that Luther concocts his elaborate plan, Lucy and Donaldson are plotting as well.  Shells of human beings, rotting away in a prison hospital, they stockpile drugs and plan their escape.  They, too, seek out Daniels, but also wish to inflict pain on Luther, who burned them terribly after their first escape from a hospital.

What ensues is a mix between Seven and Saw: The Final Chapter, where Daniels must follow clues, and then finds herself in an abandoned city, going through a series of traps set to mimic Dante's Inferno.  Everything is contained in these games, from strangers to friends to lovers to her own baby. 

Although slightly unbelievable at times (a grizzly bear, really?) Stirred was a wonderful collaboration between Konrath and Crouch.   They claim that this is the last Kite/Thomas book, but the ending certainly leaves it open for a sequel.  I've read a fair amount of horror in the last few years, and Konrath/Crouch are the only authors that continue to kill it hardcore.  Rock on, horror brothers.