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Griffin Hayes ‘Malice’ Review


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Written by: James Keen

“It was worse than any nightmare he had ever known.” – ‘Malice’.

Family relocation to a new town, to a strange environment is a rich literary pool of narrative possibilities for a writer to explore. Displacement and the struggle to fit in, to integrate with the new community opens up intriguing story-telling opportunities and avenues for dramatic tension. Griffin Hayes’ in his horror novel, ‘Malice’ takes this central story idea, laces it with the recurring motif of the past constantly threatening to usurp the present in devilishly gruesome ways -of secrets that refuse to wither and fade away- ladles on some grotesquely sanguine imagery and offers up a novel that while certainly entertaining to begin with, it’s a reading experience that becomes increasingly predictable with a cast of characters whose trite dialogue is all too redolent of  torpid exchanges in the blander variety of episodic crime-based television series.

Introducing our hero, Lysander Shore, a seventeen year old ‘goth’, struggling to minimise his sense of social alienation, Hayes from the first chapter gets his story off to a suitably unnerving opening. Shore encounters the local insurance rep Peter Hume, who ominously informs the young lad, “You were warned not to come here.” Millingham, Shore’s new home town has its sinister portents but it also has its decidedly more attractive aspects, most notably in the form of his new classmates, Samantha and Summer, the former a self-styled wiccan and the other a typical example of college air-head eye-candy. As the odd events in Haye’s novel begin to increase in terms of malevolence and blood-letting, the author draws a rather vapid, overly familiar picture of a young man torn between his affection for two wildly different girls while slowly revealing the origins of the paranormal occurrences in the otherwise relatively peaceful town of Millingham.

‘Malice’ has many creatively interesting elements going for it; there’s an abandoned house with a violent history, a decidedly creepy police deputy, a sub-plot involving Samantha’s father -the local Sheriff and the suicide of her mother but to quote the text itself here, “something wasn’t quite right.”. Hayes keeps the plot moving along at an energetic pace, but as the book diligently hammers on, its fervent intent to scare and thrill is sabotaged by the hackneyed exchanges between characters, by reliance on character archetypes and character development/motivation that smacks of convenient artifice on the part of the writer. It’s the novel’s tiresomely obvious story arc that stymies narrative tension until reading it becomes an exercise in page-turning with very little reader empathy with the book’s characters. There are set-pieces in the text that the seasoned horror aficionado has come across time and again and instead of attempting to do something different with these ideas, Hayes’ narrative methodology is to simply synthesise horror tropes, perhaps aiming to distract the reader from the plainly transparent conceit here.

It’s a shame as Hayes has a nice line in economic and effectively descriptive prose. If he finds a story that isn’t so obviously derivative and reins in his penchant for cliched dialogue then this reviewer would certainly be interested in reading more from this author. As it stands, this is neither frightening nor sufficiently dramatically engaging to warrant more of the same.

Order Malice here.

Rating: 2.5/5

About The Overseer (1669 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

5 Comments on Griffin Hayes ‘Malice’ Review

  1. Finding an original premise and writing good dialog are hard, but important. I appreciate knowing the highs and lows of the novel. Thanks for the in-depth review.

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  2. Another well written review here . I appreciate the clear and clean points you have brought out here…Vitina

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    • jameskeen89450 // July 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm // Reply

      Thanks, Vitina. Edited this four times-original review was way too long and came across as one long moan…heh-heh…

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  3. James keen doesn’t know what he’s taking about when it comes to a literary review. This should be no surprise – loyal constant reader. I certainly “DON’T LIKE” James Keen’s snide, snobby remarks, and I wanted to vomit after I read his annoying, nettlesome, flowery review on Malice!
    I hope James Keen “NEVER” decides to stick his neck out there and “EVER” write a horror book. And if he does, then I “won’t” buy it. He’s NOT a writer; and he doesn’t know anything about captivating and gripping literature.
    I’ve read gripping and nail-biting reads ALL MY LIFE, and Malice is one of the BEST 5 star books that I have honestly ever read! And Griffin Hayes is one of the best storytellers to this date!
    As a result, I think it’s a bad idea for James Keen to cut down a semi-new author just to make himself “A MORE PRESTIGIOUS REVIEWER!”
    Furthermore, if James Keen can’t write a halfway decent literary review without over-using flowery language, then I’ll put my life on it that he “CAN’T’ write a successful, horrifying novel! And it will be a ‘DISASTER’ if he ever does! I
    Therefore, let’s pray that James Keen “NEVER” writes another literary review on ANY horror piece in the future!

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