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Perish L C Barlow Main

"Perish (Jack Harper Trilogy Book 2)" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Rare Bird Books

perish l c barlow poster large

Written by L.C. Barlow
2020, 288 pages, Fiction
Released on 13th October, 2020

Review:

The excellent Perish is the second instalment in the ‘Jake Harper Trilogy’ and although it does not quite reach the awesome heights of its predecessor, it remains a high-quality novel and a superb continuation of a gripping story. I also recently reviewed Pivot for Horror DNA, so click back if you fancy reading the full piece. Be warned, do not attempt to read Perish without having read Pivot, you will not understand a word of it; the sequel picks up the action the moment book one concludes, with them being intrinsically linked from the first page to the last.

Pivot has a fascinating history, being originally self-published back in 2013 before a substantially rewritten version was acquired by Rare Bird Books some years later. The new version saw the much chunkier original sensibly halved into Pivot and Perish and in a previous conversation the author noted that the use of professional editors played a big part in improving the quality of the novel. They are both very slick stories and because they are so intertwined it is tricky to review the second without providing unwanted spoilers for readers yet to discover the delights of the original.

By way of recap, Pivot is told in three sections, when the main character Jack Harper is aged seven, eleven and seventeen and who narrates the story in the first person. This style of narrative is perfect for this story, as Jack is a member of a cult; but because she knows nothing of the rest of the world, she is completely unaware she is in one. Jack has been adopted by the leader Cyrus Harper, who ensures she receives a full education of maths, English, and other normal subjects and takes a keen interest in her development. However, Cyrus ensures that Jack is also taught a peculiar extra-curricular subject: that of assassination.

This makes Pivot an even more peculiar story, as our engaging and very likable main character is a mass murderer who repeatedly kills for Cyrus, particularly in the third segment of the story when she is seventeen. Jack commits her first murder when she is seven; Roland James lies comatose on a table and Cyrus shows Jack how to pierce a vein in his neck which will result in certain death due to rapid blood loss. However, after the killing something very strange happens; Roland comes back to life.

The million-dollar question revolves around how Cyrus Harper has the ability of bringing Roland back to life and this is a major plot strand of Perish.  In the sequel, the story does move on significantly and the cult no longer dominates the plot and it cleverly fans out into other supernatural areas connected to Jack. Once others find out that this ‘gift’ exists, the battle to control it kicks off when shady organisations realise repeatedly resurrecting the dead can be used for all sorts of unpleasant things.

A substantial part of Perish takes place in New York and bearing in mind psychopathic Jack is still a mere teenager, she initially struggles to survive in the Big Apple before resorting to her (sort of) old killing ways. Before long, she receives letters from children who remain imprisoned by the cult for deeply unpleasant motives which were revealed in Pivot, taking the story into even wilder supernatural territory involving a machine which “bleaches anything white” (don’t ask) and a demonic being called ‘The Builder’, who briefly appears in book one and is sure to reappear in the final book of the trilogy. There is a lot going on in this wild plot and I thoroughly enjoyed the highly unpredictable rollercoaster ride.

Although this book is terrific, it could have answered more questions regarding the cult; there is lots of smoke and mirrors, but how much of substance is revealed is open to debate.  There is a lot of strange stuff in Perish and for a while, for example, I struggled to get my head around how the supernatural gramophone player worked (again, don’t ask), but it becomes clearer as the book develops and the confusion dissipates. Also, considering the amount of people who are resurrected, nobody ever said where they had been (or were asked), which is slightly odd.

Even though Perish has an excellent ending, it still feels slightly like a middle book in a trilogy and seems to edge away from horror towards dark or urban fantasy with the introduction of supernatural creatures, which reminded me of something you are more likely to come across in a YA novel.

The final word goes to the main character Jack, who does grow emotionally in this sequel and has some great interactions with other characters, particularly Jonathan Roth, who is a mercenary she teams up with. She is presented almost as asexual, the product of her unique upbringing, and remains enigmatically difficult to get a handle on. She is undoubtedly a remorseless killer, but she does begin to show empathy and is an outstanding central character. In Peak (book three, due out next year), her otherworldly journey is set to continue, and I cannot wait to see how it pans out.

If you love Pivot, you will gobble up Perish and I highly recommend both books, which are an exquisite blend of page-turning horror and supernatural thrillers with a lead character to die for (that’s if she doesn’t slit your throat for smiling first). Sublime stuff.

Grades:

Overall: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Tony Jones
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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