"Finale" Book Review
Written by Tony Jones
Published by 2 Feet Entertainment
Written by Steen Langstrup
2018, 162 pages, Fiction
Released on May 25th, 2018
The latest release from Danish author Steen Langstrup, Finale squeezes a lot of punch into its 160 pages and with a film of the same name due to drop later in 2018, it may well reappear on your horror radar soon. Langstrup has been around for years, with his work now beginning to appear in translation more frequently, so perhaps the film of this short novel is his ticket to discovery by a wider audience.
I found the catchphrase this book uses to be slightly misleading: “A novel in the tradition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hostel and Saw.” That’s not particularly accurate… There is little of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on offer, nothing in the Saw ballpark either, and a little bit too much of Hostel for my taste. That’s not to say it isn’t a decent read, just not a very accurate selling blurb. The film version has been partially funded by the Danish Film Institute, so I’ll be intrigued to see whether it also heads into Hostel territory and if so, I’ll be steering well clear, but hopefully they will have come up with something with more artistic merit than torture porn, as the book certainly deserves it.
The opening sequences take place in a petrol station in a rural part of Denmark, where two young women are working the nightshift. They are expecting a very quiet night, as Denmark is competing in a worldwide sporting final, the Finale of the title. Both women, Belinda and Agnes, are very different characters. Agnes is a hardworking university student and Belinda is slightly younger, flighty, and has a dodgy boyfriend who lurks in the background scrounging money. Belinda would rather get on with her studies when there are no customers around, but their interactions bounce off each other well, with Agnes spilling her personal problems, whether her colleague wants to hear them or not.
Much of the first half of the tale revolves around the two women who get jumpy when they are convinced they are being watched by a couple of guys who stopped for gas and then doubled back. Belinda gets very paranoid about this and quickly passes her jitters onto Agnes. These scenes are very well handled and the dynamics between the two are extremely convincing and the author builds atmosphere exceptionally well. They are isolated, alone, most definitely vulnerable and the reader feels this tension. I’ve been to Denmark many times, and I’m sure isolated locations such as these do exist, but I could not help but feel it set in rural Texas, Louisiana or the Australian outback! In some ways it has an American feel to it, except for a few reference points to northern Europe which gave the location away.
The second story strand is told in tandem from the early stages with a couple locked and tied up in a basement, this plot moves along at a decent lick and soon merges with the other. The blurb uses the comparison to Hostel and so that gives some indication where the story heads and when the garden shears and staple-guns were wheeled out, I almost gave up the ghost. It does get very violent, but I managed to stick with it, mainly because I particularly liked Agnes and hoped she would pull through. She is one tough girl and I’m sure all readers will be rooting for her.
Finale builds tension, a tight plot, and spills a lot of blood in 160 pages. It is interesting to read a European written and set novel which features a brand of horror which is archetypical American in nature, but Langstrup clearly illustrates that people disappear all the time, and not just in the States. One thing’s for sure, I’m certain the Danish Tourist Board will be using this brutally told story to promote their beautiful country!
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