"3:33" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by D&T Publishing

Written by Mark Towse
2022, 119 pages, Fiction
Released on 1st December 2022


Since 2020, Mark Towse has authored a host of novellas and been featured in numerous short story anthologies, and if his other work hits the same heights as 3:33, I will certainly be checking him out again soon. I found this to be a short, punchy, and often very funny read which does not take itself too seriously with a central character who goes through the worst possible mid-life crisis. Frank might have been unlikable, but at the same time, one can not help feeling sorry for the poor sucker, as not all of us age gracefully!

The central theme of 3:33 has been recycled hundreds of times, however, Mark Towse gives his take a glossy fresh coat of paint with a forty-five-year-old guy who dislikes his life, is bored with his wife, avoids his job, has money worries, and feels distant from his teenage kids. In many ways, Frank could be any one of ten million men who dream of a young gorgeous blonde twenty years their junior exploding into their lives and helping them with the realities of middle age. What if such a scenario was possible? Would you grab the opportunity and not give a damn about the price? If your answer is ‘yes,’ perhaps you might change your mind after piggybacking on Frank’s experience!

We all know the old story of selling your soul to the Devil for untold wealth. Mark Towse rewrites it with style and a healthy dose of dark humour, with Frank finding himself in a bizarre Eyes Wide Shut style situation. Soon outlandish opportunities arise, and I found myself chuckling heartily when his hair starts to grow back and the vanity which comes with it. However, in one terrific sequence, Frank’s hair literally comes to life and things go downhill quickly. When I was a kid, I wondered how the snakes on the Gorgon Medusa’s head fed, well, without going into too many details, 3:33 gives you the answer. Except I do not think Medusa fed her snakes slices of ham and sausage rolls!

How does Frank end up in this bizarre predicament? After having a particularly rough time with his family and at work he has a strange dream about a nightclub where your deepest darkest desires come true, but at a cost which is not financial. His instincts tell him this place is real and he seeks it out, realising entry can only take place at exactly 3:33 am. Note, if you double this number, look what you get… Members sign a contract and are required to wear animal masks, with the drinks performing miracles which make you feel fantastic. Different doors lead to seductive pleasures which are very addictive and considering Frank was six months sober when the novella begins, he finds himself in very dicey territory.

The private members club is vividly described, balancing nicely between sleazy, erotic, enticing and dangerous, subconsciously asking the reader what they would be willing to sacrifice for a quiet hour in one of their private rooms. The bartender ‘Lloyd,’ name, mannerisms and all, is cheekily lifted straight out of The Shining as the laconic provider of drinks, advice and tips on which pleasure to pursue next.

Frank’s glory years might be well behind him and it is great fun getting sucked into his dream, which quickly morphs into a nightmare. Sometimes we don’t appreciate the mundanities of life until they are gone and this trippy, wacky and funny novella batters this point home with a sledgehammer.

I read 3:33 in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed this easy and speedy read, which is great company for a couple of hours. It is backed up with Last Train, an enjoyable short story about a guy thinking he has got lucky with a gorgeous woman only to find himself stuck in the middle of nowhere waiting for a train which is never going to come, but something else definitely will.


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Buy from Amazon UK.

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
Other articles by this writer


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