PUBLISHER: Crystal Dreams Publishing
RELEASE DATE: October 2008
FORMAT: Paperback, 280 pages
On the night of October thirteenth, the Hunter’s Moon descended upon the quiet town of White Chapel. As Sara Bishop drifted off to sleep under its soft illumination, the full moon seemed to have brought with it something far more sinister than a warm glow. At once, the nightmare started. But this wasn’t any ordinary nightmare. This one seemed real as if she could smell it, feel it, taste it. It was one of those dreams one that awakened her witch-like sense a harbinger of heartbreak and now, horror. Together with Rebecca Parker, the only other person who understood her gift, someone who had experienced her own strange senses, Sara hoped to come to terms with this ominous nightmare. But her closest friend and next door neighbor was no where to be found not since the night of October thirteenth. And so it begins.
With little help from her skeptical husband or local police, Sara finds herself virtually alone as her grisly dreams crawl from the darkness to become a sick and twisted reality a reality where she has become the ultimate desire of a sadistic serial killer. As images of death, phantoms and shadows surround Sara in this Halloween season, she needs to listen to the whispers in her mind, use her gift, to unmask those around her, for one of them is the man from her nightmare. And he sees her when she’s sleeping. He knows when she’s awake. When the next full moon descends upon White Chapel, he will reveal himself to her. And under its silvery glow, a new nightmare will be born. Will Sara Bishop have to experience death itself to stop this killer? Or will her nightmare never end? (Goodreads)
I’m finding it quite hard to summarise what I feel about ONCE UPON A NIGHTMARE. I think it’s easier if I split the book into two parts. The story and plot which really is superb, but then there’s the violence which to be honest is pretty horrific.
Let’s start with the first element. ONCE UPON A NIGHTMARE is a gruesome, frightening murder mystery. Our main heroine is Sara. The book opens with Sara feeling an intense sense of foreboding, followed by a horrendous nightmare where she is raped and murdered. As the plot unravels it soon begins to become apparent that Sara’s nightmares are some sort of clairvoyant gift, as she discovers each of them begin to come true, starting with the murder of someone she loves dearly.
The writing is tight and pacy, the twists of the serial killer plot are brilliant. Moylan throws in several red herrings, by the end I was suspecting everyone, but had no idea who the awful killer was. In fact, I would have put my money on someone else. The scenes were gripping and the sense of terror and escalating horror palpable. It was a complete thrill-ride.
The relationships between the characters were cleverly portrayed and added further depth to the growing tension and horror. Isolation and fear surrounded Sara as the novel progressed. Which only grew worse as she begins to suspect everyone, along with the realisation that the killer is someone close to them all.
But then there’s the violence. To be clear, I read what I believe to be quite a lot of violence in the genres I like to read. I’ve read scenes of gore, torture and rape. But ONCE UPON A NIGHTMARE seemed to take things to the next level. It’s important to state that this book is in no way suitable for younger readers. The violence is abundant, explicit and quite hard to take.
The scenes that were hardest for me were the rape ones. There are scenes of very, very graphic, violent rape. I’m talking the killer keeping his victims awake, raping and mutilating them at the same time. There were a couple of occasions where I had to put the book down, because I felt faintly nauseated and needed a break from the writing.
This is my major criticism of the book, I think the violence could have been taken back a little bit and still have the same impact. But the level of it tipped over to gratuitous. On a personal level, it was just too much for me.
This is what makes this a hard review for me to write. The writing is great, it’s horror and thriller combined brilliantly. The characters are multi-layered, engaging and dark. But violence is shocking. And it’s making it virtually impossible for me to rate this book. The story would be a 4/5, but the violence would be a 2/5, but I don’t think the book deserves a 3, so I have compromised on a 3.5/5.
A scary, well written thriller for people with stomachs of steel! If you’re not a fan of violence don’t even think about picking it up. If you don’t mind it, then this is great, gory, page-turner.
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