Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.
She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.
And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.
Disclaimer: I am acquainted with this author via social media, through mutual membership in a large online writing community. This in no way detracts from the honesty of my review.
When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares inspired from visions of a horror film my parents had for some reason allowed me to watch. The name of that film? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Oh, that’s not a horror film, you say? Well, it was to me. Because that’s how much of a scaredy cat I am. Just the thought of Violet Beauregarde swelling up into a bizarre blueberry-human hybrid and being rolled out the door in order to be SQUEEZED and JUICED was enough to fuel my nighttime terrors for years.
All this is to say that, despite the cover and the rather dark subject matter, The Half Killed is not a horror novel. If you are like me and hesitate to read anything that might be the least bit scary, you are most likely safe with this book. There are creepy scenes, so I don’t recommend reading this book, say, in a dark garage or empty house (ahem, not that I’d know anything about that . . .), but overall, it steers clear of the overly gory and graphic.
From my past experiences reading Quenby Olson’s work, both of which have been pleasant, I have fallen in love with her gift of description. It is within the pages of The Half Killed that this gift of hers shifts into overdrive.
In writing classes and online workshops, a maxim that is often repeated ad nauseum is “show, don’t tell.” The Half Killed is an excellent example of what that means. This is a very visual book. The prose is just lovely, and mirrors well the style and vocabulary of Victorian writers. Ms. Olson’s attention to detail and historical accuracy are apparent in the way she constructs the narrative, and I felt like I could see everything unfolding in my head, like a moving picture.
Oddly enough, this visual aspect of the novel is both what made me love it, and what made me a little disappointed when I reached the end. The descriptions of every physical event were rich with detail, but only the slimmest bits of backstory and explanation are offered. The reader leaves Dorothea and Julian with very little explicit confirmation about the nature and identity of their villain, their feelings about what they have just experienced, and even really the specifics about Dorothea’s gift. I also thought some of the Spiritualist practices could have been explained a little more thoroughly, for readers who were not as familiar with the movement. I had to read two or three articles to understand some aspects of what was going on. In the end, I was left wanting more . . . and not entirely in a good way.
That being said, I still rather enjoyed reading this book. Given the genre, it was out of my comfort zone, as I’m sure you can guess by perusing the rest of my reviews, but I am glad I made that leap. It is definitely a thought-provoking, entertaining piece that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
About the Author
Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chasing the cat off the kitchen counters. She lives with her husband and three children, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.