Kirkus review:Helford’s debut opens with a seemingly innocuous scene: A real estate agent shows a young couple a house they’re considering buying. Suddenly, the wife imagines horrific scenes of bloodshed in the house and begins screaming. Unbeknownst to the real estate agent, the house has a dark history: It was once home to a serial killer. The author then opens the narrative up, bringing readers into the mind of that killer, John, a nervous, punctilious man preparing to go “shopping”—not for groceries but for victims he calls “epiphanies.” Helford explores the weird logic of John’s psyche in a series of carefully controlled chapters enlivened by baroque, engaging prose (“A dark calm void filled the confusion, filled the sadness, filled John to the brim, while pushing aside his chaotic thoughts to the edges of the darkness, and John followed”). On the outside, John is calm, collected and sometimes even sarcastic; he smiles as he tells one prospective victim, “You know that in some tribal cultures, a smile is actually a warning of incipient violence.” But on the inside, he’s tortured by grotesque visions that drive him to kidnap women and savagely murder them. This internal narrative is so vivid and disjointed that readers will likely find John both fascinating and repulsive as he stews with “impotent rage at the wrong done to him” yet experiences neither remorse nor compassion. As the pace increases, the focus splits between John and a team of police investigators trying to capitalize on his few mistakes in order to catch him. The technical, procedural aspects of these sections are just as well-written and convincing as John’s surreal, violent inner monologues. The book significantly increases the gore and violence in its second half, as John’s inner demons urge him to greater violence (and seem to take on lives of their own). Fans of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs and Shane Stevens’ By Reason of Insanity may find a new favorite author here.
A violent, disturbing thriller.
About the book:The prologue is a vignette that brings the reader into the tone and setting of the novel, giving a foreshadowing of the events that will unfold. It starts with newlyweds on a happy day, looking at a prospective home, but ends in tragedy due to an evil resonance attached to the house. This leads the reader to the beginning of John's story.
John has been a successful serial killer for his entire adult life, committed to his craft without detection or disruption. He's spent years refining his process and meticulously planning out each kill, honing his abilities to horrible heights. At the start of the novel, the reader is introduced to John going about the routine of his particular method of selection and abduction. The plans are well-rehearsed, but his dark life is abruptly disrupted as something even darker wells out from deep within him. What starts out as one dissociative lapse--a blackout on the road--turns into a series of uncontrollable blackouts, unraveling his carefully wrought control. John tries to re-center his mind through meditation--a technique he taught himself as a young man, to quiet his chaotic thoughts--but while John is deep within himself, he finds unfamiliar dark voices, voices not his own. They claw past his defenses and force themselves into John's reality, manifesting from out of the depths of his subconscious. John's scarred psyche had manifested as grotesque physical representations, torturing his fragile mind and bringing his buried past terrors back to life. Through a series of unbidden flashbacks to the abuses and defining moments of John's past, and through his interactions with these manifestations representing his weaknesses and fears, the reader glimpses what set him on the path to being such a prolific killer.
The book is written with an emotional honesty that lays bare the killer's soul for all readers to see, while also delivering a good scare.
Guest Post by Jason HelfordYou are jogging through an abandoned part of town, each footfall crunching on the dried leaves that lonely winds have scattered over this old street. The pavement is cracked and broken, with occasional potholes that you hop over as you run. There are 4 more miles to run, and the sun slid behind the horizon hours ago. You are covered with a healthy sheen, and your pulse is steady.
Dark windows stare over doorways that smile at you as their frames sag with rot and age. A light, dry breeze stirs the debris and brings the faint smell of old decay.
Your eyes dart left and right as you scan the deep shadows hovering in empty alleys. A trash can rattles to your right and falls over, sending you into a momentary sprint, until you hear the feline yowl and see a tabby cat run across the street, chasing something small. You chuckle and resume your rhythmic pace. You look down at your feet to avoid injury on the well-worn road. Each footfall sends a comforting shockwave up your legs and scatters dry leaves in an eddy.
“Pardon me, friend,” a voice startles you from the dark, causing you to stumble. “Whoa, friend. Relax. I just need some directions. Sorry to scare you.”
You straighten up and stare as the man detaches himself from the night and walks towards you. He is unassuming, of medium height and build. The crown of his head peeks through a small gap in his dark hair.
“Where are you trying to go?” you ask in a flat tone, gesturing down one of the cross streets. “Downtown is that way. This is the old part of town. An abandoned development.”
“Well, actually, I am following a tour,” explains the man, smiling and stepping closer.
“A tour? Out here? At...um, you should probably just head that way to town. Good night,” you reply, skeptical of the notion of a midnight tour.
“No, no, no,” he says with a congenial gesture while talking fast. “It’s an electronic tour. On my phone. It’s based on a book called From a Killer’s Mind. Great book! Really scary! Do you remember the grizzly killings here a number of years ago? Weird, awesome story.”
“Yeahhh,” you say, taken aback by his odd choice of words. “But they were horrible killings. Worst this area had seen. I don’t know about awesome, but, yeah, everyone here knows. Look, I can’t help you with that, so I’ll just get back to running. Good luck.”
You turn to leave, but he says something that chills your spine.
“I’m looking for 782 Smithtown Road,” he calls out in a causal tone. “Do you know where that is?”
“782 Smithtown Road?!” you ask incredulously. “That’s my neighbor’s house! It wasn’t involved with the killings! That wasn’t in From a Killer’s Mind. I read it, too. It was good.”
“Your neighbor’s house? Well, that is a coincidence,” answers the man, his smile spreading. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. “But it’s definitely in the book. It’s right here. Look.”
“It’s the section where the writer, ah,” the man steps closer and looks around, suddenly whispering conspiratorially, holding out his phone to you. “Where the writer talks about the supernatural stuff. Some people say it’s just tin-hat craziness, or maybe covering lazy police-work, but not me. I think the stories are real.”
You warily take the phone and look at the loaded page, but you don’t see anything about your neighbor’s house.
“What are you talking about?” you accuse. “There’s nothing in here about my neighbor’s house?!”
“It’s there. Look again,” says the man with stale breath. “It’s there. The gory killings. The supernatural shockers. Fear and suspense. The killer’s dark background. How he became who he was. It’s all there, friend.”
“What are you talking about?” you demand, scrolling up and down impatiently. “What about my neighbor’s house? I don’t have time for this...”
“You have the time,” says the man, his tone suddenly different. “You’ll learn all about it.”
“About wha...” you start, pushing the phone back to the man, when pain flashes at the base of your skull, sending stars floating in your vision. You feel yourself going limp as you fall towards the ground, but land instead in inky, numb blackness.
If you liked this, try my book, From A Killer’s Mind.
About the author:
Jason Helford is a first time author, having recently published his debut novel, From a Killer’s Mind, in July of 2013. He’s a devoted husband and father, an avid comic book collector and an enthusiastic craft beer drinker. Prizing originality and creativity more than anything else, his favorite authors are Hunter S. Thompson, Chuck Palahniuk, Ray Bradbury, Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Robert Asprin and Albert Camus. Please don’t be offended if you are an author and your name wasn’t mentioned, he probably likes you, too. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Bella, his daughter, Maddie, and his goofy dog, Sunset.
Connect with the author:
Website | Goodreads
Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Kobo