Book Review: Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk

Will Haunt You Book Cover
Will Haunt You
by Brian Kirk
Flame Tree Press
288 pages
March 14, 2019

** Review copy disclaimer: Review copy received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way by the author or the publisher. **

Description: You don’t read the book. It reads you. Rumors of a deadly book have been floating around the dark corners of the deep web. A disturbing tale about a mysterious figure who preys on those who read the book and subjects them to a world of personalized terror. Jesse Wheeler–former guitarist of the heavy metal group The Rising Dead–was quick to discount the ominous folklore associated with the book. It takes more than some urban legend to frighten him. Hell, reality is scary enough. Seven years ago his greatest responsibility was the nightly guitar solo. Then one night when Jesse was blackout drunk, he accidentally injured his son, leaving him permanently disabled. Dreams of being a rock star died when he destroyed his son’s future. Now he cuts radio jingles and fights to stay clean. But Jesse is wrong. (Read more)

Review:  Psychological horror is a tricky thing to get right. For some readers, it resonates strongly while for others, it falls flat. For me, it’s not my first choice for reading or viewing material, but Brian Kirk isn’t just any ordinary horror writer. He is a luminous supernova of talent, inventiveness, and originality. All of his fiction delivers resonating gut punches, and he is on another level, setting the bar astonishingly high. His Bram Stoker Award®-nominated novel We Are Monsters was a mind-bending thrill ride of epic proportions, and when I first heard about Will Haunt You, I knew it would be unforgettable. In light of that, I propose that in the same way Stoker Award®-nominated author John F.D. Taff earned the title of the King of Pain, Brian Kirk should be the Architect of Nightmares.

He did a more than thorough job scaring the living daylights out of me and a good chunk of the population with his online prequel story in promotion of this novel. I followed along in terror, enraptured by the enfolding blog posts. Each entry frightened me more. At one point, Josh freakin’ Malerman said he was scared, too, which is not an easy task to accomplish. Kirk is a master builder of stories, suspense, and intrigue. Just when I thought I was done being horrified, Kirk kept stacking the bricks higher and the terror continued to escalate. Rest assured this novel gave me nightmares weeks after I finished it.

Will Haunt You is the story of Jesse Wheeler, a washed-up former rock musician with substance abuse issues. When the novel begins, he is playing a reunion show with his band in a bid to relive his glory days, but it doesn’t take long for the animosity to play out between the erstwhile bandmates. Adding to the tension, Jessie’s resentment of giving up the rockstar lifestyle for a white picket fence bleeds through the pages. He works on advertising jingles so he can provide for his wife and their developmentally disabled son, and divides the blame for his lack of musical success equally on them as much as the band, if not more.

At the show, Jesse encounters a young woman in the crowd and thinks she may have been a former groupie, but not of his. Incidentally, he admits to having had his ruinous streak of one-night stands, but things start to take a turn for the worse as the mystery girl slowly reveals her true nature. The story takes on a more cosmic direction, and ventures into similar territory to the film The Cell.

will haunt you graphic obsideo

Jesse goes into an inexplicable fugue state. He’s not sure what’s real and what’s not. His maladies stem from reading a book, Obsideo, that one of his bandmates, Solomon, gave him. This aspect of the novel strongly brought to mind Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s stunning tale of psychological horror, Dungeon Brain. As with that novel, Kirk does a masterful job making the reader question what’s the truth, whether Jesse is telling it, and if any character Jesse sees is real or an apparition. Readers soon wonder if Jesse can see the difference in the increasingly blurred lines between reality and fantasy.

In spite of his faults, I sympathized with Jesse — not an easy task to pull off for any author — but I felt Kirk accomplished this successfully and made it look effortless, which is a testament to his gifts as an author. One aspect I think helped with that is the ordeals Jessie and his wife, Cassie, went through, which I found memorable, harrowing, and fraught with raw emotions.

I thought the author also made excellent use of text messages and social media elements to enhance the overall narrative. One incident in particular stood out for me in which Jesse confronted photographic evidence of a misdeed that could decimate his already rocky marriage. Further, the device of the unreliable narrator running so deeply in this novel packed this sequence with pulse-pounding tension.

obsideo book graphic

Will Haunt You is a surrealist novel that toys with the reader’s mind, and even though the protagonist asks ‘why me?’, and ‘what do these people want from me?’ multiple times, there are no easy answers. At times, I will admit I found this frustrating, and some aspects did confuse me. However, for the most part, it all came together in the end. I appreciated that this was not a straightforward, easy-to-follow plot in which the characters had to race against time to put X book back into Y library. This is not the kind of novel in which the characters have to banish demons, find the amulets, or recite the right incantations to make the ‘big evil’ vanish. It’s infinitely smarter than any of that, and pushes the reader, challenging them to connect a checkerboard of dots that jump across the pages.

Equal parts Saw mixed with panoptical terror, Will Haunt You resoundingly proves that Brian Kirk is one of the foremost writers of mind-bending psychological horror today. Pick up a copy of his latest novel, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

To find out more about Will Haunt You, read my interview with Brian Kirk from a short while ago.

brian kirk author photoBrian Kirk is a Bram Stoker Award®-nominated author of dark thrillers and psychological suspense. His debut novel, We Are Monsters, was released in July 2015. In addition to being nominated for a Bram Stoker Award® for Superior Achievement in a First Novel, We Are Monsters was optioned for film development by Executive Producer, Jason Shuman.

His short fiction has been published in many notable magazines and anthologies. Most recently, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories and Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, where his work appears alongside multiple New York Times bestselling authors.

During the day, Brian works as a freelance marketing and creative consultant. His experience working on large, integrated advertising campaigns for international companies has helped him build an effective author platform, and makes him a strong marketing ally for his publishing partners. In addition, Brian has an eye for emerging media trends and an ability to integrate storytelling into new technologies and platforms.

While he’s worked to make this bio sound as impressive as possible, he’s actually a rather humble guy who believes in hard work and big dreams. Feel free to connect with him through one of the following channels. Don’t worry, he only kills his characters.