Slash by Hunter Shea

Slash_Hunter Shea.jpg

Publisher: Flame Tree Press | Release Date: October 24, 2019 | Pages: 288

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last year, Hunter Shea wowed me with the emotionally engaging Creature. Earlier this year, his novel Ghost Mine (formerly Hell Hole) was reissued, a fun Wild West-era romp chock full of action. And now, landing just in time for some Halloween reading this fall, he’s taken the two best aspects of his Flame Tree Press titles and married them in his slasher horror flick set to print, Slash.

At the end of every slasher flick is the lone woman survivor, the movie’s final girl. She’s been tortured psychologically and physically, watched her best friends brutally murdered at the hands of some unstoppable psycho killer, forced to go it alone as she struggles to live through the night and escape the madman stalking her. But what happens after she’s won? Ashley King, an urban explorer, survived the Hayden Resort massacre, but only barely. She suffers from severe post-traumatic stress, depression, and fear of the dark. She lived, but so much else about her died at the hands of a vicious killer dubbed the Wraith. In the wake of her suicide, her husband Todd seeks a way to reconnect with her. Distraught and grieving, he decides to head to the ruins of the Hayden Resort, but his friends won’t let him go alone. They want to be there for him to provide emotional support in his time of need, and this may be the last mistake any of them make. There’s something in the derelict hotel following them…stalking them…hunting them. The Wraith is back.

Right from the outset, Shea launches into Slash gunning for you, aiming straight for the heart. His exploration of grief and depression is painfully honest, and we immediately sympathize for Todd and all that he’s lost. Although we get echoes of Ashley throughout the story, it’s largely through Todd’s eyes that we come to know and admire her. She becomes an omnipresent force in the story, motivating Todd through his darkest hours and giving him hope. Although we only get to spend a significant amount of time with one of them, you can imagine the powerhouse couple they could have been in better days and how Ashley’s life influenced his and others around her. Todd’s not exactly a shrieking violet either, mind you, and once his present life begins to intersect with Ashley’s history at the Hayden Resort and the Wraith makes his presence known, we get to see what really fuels Todd and his companions.

Much of this book’s first half is spent building up the characters and introducing us to Todd’s friends, primarily Vince and Heather, but also Jerry, Bill, and, eventually, Sharon, the sister of one of Ashley’s friends who was murdered at the abandoned hotel. Jerry and Sharon don’t exactly hit it off — he’s a raging misogynistic cop and she’s a stripper, so there’s a lot of built-in tension between these two and they generate a lot of conflict within the group even as the Wraith tries to kill them all one by one.

Speaking of the Wraith…this bad boy is a slasher fan’s nightmare! If you’ve been following Shea for any length of time on social media, you know he’s a fan of slasher flicks. That love bleeds onto every single page here, and Slash is very much an ode to this style of horror. The Wraith is a remorseless hunter and killer, with a particular fondness for literally ripping his victims apart piece by piece. The Hayden Resort becomes absolutely littered with decapitated heads, severed limbs, snaking entrails, the works! And like your favorite cinema slasher, he’s nigh unstoppable — and for very good reason! I won’t go into it here, but damn if I didn’t love the backstory Shea conjured for the Wraith.

Slash is a slick and cool slasher movie in book form. It’s ridiculously compulsively readable, and the pages here damn near turn themselves while you wonder who the Wraith is and what makes him tick. Forget Jason. Say goodbye to Michael Myers. Give Ghostface a big ol’ middle finger. The Wraith is here!