"My Pretties" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Written by Jeff Strand
2019, 190 pages, Fiction
Released on June 1st, 2019
If I could describe Jeff Strand’s work in one word…I couldn’t because that’s silly. However, gun pointed to my head, the first thing that would come to mind is variety. I’ve read plenty of Strand’s work and one thing that always impresses me is his ability to toy with my emotions from one page to the next. I mean that literally, and I mean “literally” in the true definition of it and not the way those crazy kids are using that word today. His latest novel, My Pretties, is a perfect example of this in action.
My Pretties is a somewhat different take on a serial killer than I’m used to. Instead of strangling, shooting, or stabbing his victims, Ken likes to abduct them, put them in elevated cages, and watch them slowly die. No torture, no physical abuse, no inflicted pain. He just keeps it simple. However, he’s unaware the cousin of one of his victims, Gertie, is on the hunt for him. She doesn’t know who Ken is yet, but she intends on finding out, and her newfound friend, Charlene, has reluctantly agreed to help. The two women may be in over their heads due to some completely unforeseen circumstances.
It’s unnatural how Strand can move from making you laugh out loud on the metro and avoiding eye contact from those folks starting at you to having you involuntarily clinch up and turn your eyes away from the page because of something happening or, even worse, the threat of something happening. And he does this all the time, which is just one of the many reasons I love his work.
Plus, Strand can make even the worst of the worst damn near likeable. Take Ken, for instance. Okay, yeah, the guy is a creep and a serial killer. He’s truly demented; there are no two ways about it. Yet he’s also likable, and not just when he has his game face on when abducting the ladies. Sure, that’s expected. You really do want to hang out with the fella when he has the ‘get in my windowless van’ front on. But even when he’s not on the prowl, you don’t necessarily hate him. He’s good with his son, he tries hard to make his marriage work (albeit lying, naturally, about the things he’s up to when he’s not home); he just happens to have a hobby of kidnapping women to watch them starve to death.
The relationship between Charlene and Gertie is delightful. The two are about as opposite ends of the spectrum as you can get, but their friendship is real and believable. Of the two, Charlene is more experienced in the ways of the worl, but Gertie is no slouch. Actually, one of my favorite parts in the book is when Gertie foils Ken at something – I shall not spoil it for you – and I was high-fiving her in my head for her awareness. However, as I’m just now writing these words, it dawned on me that the thing(s) she noticed may very well be something(s) most women notice and men don’t have to. I wish I had more friends that read the exact same books I do and at the same time so I could discuss these things.
I can’t speak highly enough of Strand’s skills as a wordsmith. I have yet to read something of his that I did not thoroughly enjoy, and My Pretties is no different. It’s thrilling in some parts, cringe-inducing (in a good way) in others, and has that wicked sense of Strand humor running throughout. Some of the things Ken says to his family are laugh-out-loud funny, all things considered, as well as some of the discussions Charlene and Gertie have. It even has a nice twist that even if you see coming, it doesn’t matter one bit because it doesn’t change the enjoyment you get from reading this book.
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