True Crime, a new novella from Samantha Kolesnik, is due out January 15, 2020, and at just over 140 pages it is one of the more promising debuts I’ve read in recent years.
The book centers on Suzy, a teenage girl pushed to the breaking point by an abusive mother. One day she snaps, killing her mother with the help of her older brother, Lim, and the two find themselves on a hellish road to “freedom” that becomes more disturbing with every turn of the page.
Kolesnik’s plain-spoken, unflinching writing style combined with a natural talent for picking out the most unsavory detail to convey to her readers is something to behold. It’s as if she’s cut away our eyelids thus removing the ability to look away from the transgressive actions her characters make throughout the story she has to tell.
The first genius choice in True Crime was putting readers squarely inside the mind of an unbalanced teenage girl obsessed with true crime stories who is not only capable of atrocities but who carries them out with a detachment that borders on disassociation.
The second was never making Suzy a sympathetic victim.
Don’t get me wrong, she is most certainly victimized by her mother and many other people in her life, but she never blames those events for her actions. She views the world through a particular lens where certain things happen simply because the world is a terrible place filled with terrible people and she long ago realized that it was not entirely up to her to make it better.
She also realized that she was not one of the people who even could.
It’s an uncomfortable position to be in as a reader. We often look to the hero, identifying with them whether we share any similarities or not. So what do we do when there are no heroes? How do we feel when there is no protagonist to save us and no redemption to be found?
In 1741, Reverend Jonathan Edwards wrote a sermon titled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In it, he says, “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God…The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked.”
Samantha Kolesnik through solid storytelling presents us nothing more or less than wicked men and women on a road to hell and she, herself, dangles her characters, and by association her readers, over that very flame.
True Crime is not for everyone. It is dark and at times extreme. It fairly assaults the reader with its descriptive passages of abuse, murder, and more. There are events on its pages that will trigger more sensitive readers and rightfully so. There were some that even I could not quite believe I’d read.
Still, it earns its place on bookshelves next to fellow authors like Aaron Dries and Jack Ketchum, and could easily become one of the most talked about novels of 2020. Its brevity makes it easy to devour…digestion will take much longer.
Look for True Crime from Grindhouse Press on January 15, 2020, and experience it yourself. It is also available for pre-order on Kindle from Amazon for only $3.99.