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Paradise Maine Jackson R Thomas Main

"Paradise, Maine" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Alien Agenda Publishing

Paradise Maine Jackson R Thomas Large

Written by Jackson R. Thomas
2019, 155 pages, Fiction
Released on 15th March 2019

Review:

Although this novel has a rather innocuous front cover, be well advised to heed the author’s ‘Fair Warning’ before the start; “For mature audiences only. This is a splatterpunk novel…” Do not scoff, Jackson Thomas speaks the truth, Paradise, Maine is a very violent read; expect cannibalism, rape, torture and an impressive body count all squeezed into 155 brutal pages. If you’re a fan of nasty, fast paced horror, continue reading; there is a high probability you will get a kick from Paradise, Maine. However, should you prefer the literary end of the horror genre then check out The Migration, which was the last novel I reviewed on this site and a million miles from this bone-cruncher.

Horror legend Jack Ketchum is one of several authors thanked in the acknowledgements and Paradise, Maine is surely inspired by his controversial cult-classic Off Season, also set in Maine with a similar plot. In the Ketchum novel a group of tourists are hunted by a cannibal family in a story told over a very short period. In this book the unfortunate tourists are stalked by a deformed but deadly hillman, known locally as the ‘Watcher’, over a terrifying couple of nights. However, do not let the similarities put you off, Paradise, Maine might be inspired by Ketchum, but is no copy and stands on its own two feet (before they’re chopped off and thrown through a window). Subtlety might not be its strong point, but it is an intense rollercoaster of a read which kicks into gear within a few pages.

Darren and Vanis have been married for a few years, but after she catches him watching a live sexcam, their marriage hits the rocks and in trying to paper over the cracks, he stumbles upon an amazing opportunity to stay in a cabin in the scenic town of Paradise. After arrival everything looks perfect until Vanis swears she sees someone lurking in the shadows watching them. And from that moment on you know exactly what territory this brutal novel is heading into.

At a brief 155 pages, Paradise, Maine covers a lot of ground and moves at a quick pace; it’s so fast, you’ll hardly have time to catch your breath as the story nicely fans out into unexpected areas. The characters are sketchily but skilfully drawn, and one of the strengths of the novel is the fact that it is seen from multiple points of view. Darren and Vanis are key players, but there are other travellers, police, locals and a little girl called Mary thrown into the mix. And let us not forget the star of the show, the Watcher himself, who has a decent sized part and is one nasty piece of work.  The sequences when Vanis and the Watcher go head to head are a particular highlight; he might be on home turf, but the girl has game.

A further angle which piqued my interest is the wider conspiracy of silence that surrounds the ironically-named town of Paradise. Nobody is innocent and everybody turns a blind-eye with this plotline developing nicely as it progresses towards its wild finale. The ending is nasty and will be too much for some readers, however it is balanced with what goes before and considering the subject matter, is not overtly gratuitous. By way of comparison, Ketchum’s Off Season probably still tops it (just).

Paradise, Maine will not be for all tastes and although it treads familiar ground, the unrelenting pace, great set pieces and terrific forest set action sequences make it a treat for horror fans who like their fiction hard-hitting and with a serious mean streak.

Grades:

Overall: Fourstars Paradise Maine Jackson R Thomas Small
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Paradise Maine Jackson R Thomas Small
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About The Author
Tony Staff
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Writer
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.
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