Written by: Matthew J. Barbour
Aaron Dupree is a young man who has made some bad decisions in his life. He got mixed in the wrong crowd and drugs at early age. At 18, Aaron was arrested for being the driver in an armed robbery. He lost six years of his life in prison, but has now been released for good behavior. Unfortunately for Aaron, he is about to make a few more bad decisions.
After being slighted by Aaron’s mother in a bar, a crooked cop has targeted the family for his own sick and twisted pleasures. Manipulating Aaron to work as his unsuspecting pawn, the cop gets the boy to participate in armed robbery, murder, and rape. Aaron has to get out, but the cop holds all the cards. One wrong move and he will behind bars once again. However, it is not Aaron’s life that the cop is most interested in destroying.
The Unhinged, by David Bernstein, is a cautionary tale. While a work of speculative fiction, the novel speaks to the very real difficulties convicted felons face upon release. It is very easy to fall back into the problems which landed them in jail in the first place. The horror comes not in the quick plunge but rather the slow and steady decline.
In Aaron’s case, the boy fails to realize the implications of his actions until it is too late. Self-preservation is a strong motivator and his hesitation to take the honest road costs all those around him dearly. Inadvertently, Aaron has slipped in with the wrong crowd all over again and once again, he will pay dearly for his poor choices.
Bernstein’s writing throughout the novel is accessible. Much of the horror is psychological, but the straightforward nature in which the tale is told does offer some fairly graphic depictions of violence, both sexual and otherwise. At times, The Unhinged reads as a hardboiled crime drama.
In Aaron Dupree, Bernstein has crafted a believable –if not totally likeable- character. He has made bad decisions. As a result, he has found himself in a situation where he feels compelled to make more bad decisions. Aaron needs to take control of his life. It takes a maniac cop and a couple horrific crimes for Aaron to realize this, but he ultimately does. Of course by then, it is too late.
The ending will leave a pit at the bottom of your stomach. Poor choices never lead to a happy ending. Yet, Bernstein shocks the reader on a level well beyond what you might imagine. Just like Aaron, you do not understand how bad things are going to get until you are already there.