The Storm King by Brendan Duffy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and Random House/Penguin/Ballantine for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Storm King was a strong sophomore run from Brendan Duffy, and was a mystery/thriller with bite. Some have been comparing his atmosphere to Stephen King, and I can totally pick up on that vibe. You've got the small town where bad stuff went down. You've got the adult coming home to said small town, years later, and meeting up with old friends and enemies. You've got flashbacks to when they were young and all the bad stuff was happening. You've got explosive climaxes and bitter but hopeful denouements in all the story threads, past and present. I can totally see King as an influence.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Once I got past the first bit, it really picked up and I read the last 70% or so in one sitting. Seriously, couldn't put it down. The short chapters really made that "just one more chapter" problem I have even worse. I think it was well-plotted, the solutions and storylines made complete sense and worked with the story, and the characters were deep and developed and brought to life on the page.
When it comes down to it, I have two major issues with the book. To start, the first few paragraphs almost made me put the book down. From the perspective of a teenager, it felt off-kilter and forced, with all the "big words" that teenagers (and most non-reading adults) wouldn't use, and definitely wouldn't think about while playing baseball. It's a minor issue, but it was jarring and weird and turned me off. I'm glad I pushed past it and kept reading, because if you ask those around me while I was reading it, I was complaining about it... loudly.
Secondly, I felt like the reveal of the killer and the killer's identity was kinda meh. Where it went from there was super-effing-creepy, and there were hints leading up to the reveal dropped into the characters' shared histories, but I was kind of hoping for more when I read so many jaw-dropping reviews of the novel.
When it comes down to it, the book was great, and I can't praise the atmosphere and setting that Duffy has created enough. He did an amazing job making me feel like I was there... like the Lake was a part of me, like it was a part of the characters. He developed his characters and unraveled and rewove his plot with sophistication and ease.
I'll definitely be checking out his debut, which I missed (House of Echoes), in the future, and keep an eye out for future books by the guy. Four "Just June" stars.
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