5.0 out of 5 stars
"This Will Bring You Closer to Him"
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on 31 October 2020
“River Man ain’t wantin’ nobody’s soul. What he wants is for your soul to be as bad as his. Ya get what ya want without havin’ to do anythin’ for him, but somehow he just brings out the worst in ya. Ya go rotten in your heart after dealin’ with The River Man. That’s what I growed up believin’. Everybody knew somebody that done made a deal with him, and they got their wish but ended up doin’ terrible things too, not because they owed it to him, but because he sorta, ya know, inspired them.”
There is no scarcity of works, both fiction and non-fiction, about people, female and male, becoming enamored, even sexually and romantically, by real-life serial killers. Such delusional attraction is the basis of Kristopher Triana’s recently released GONE TO SEE THE RIVER MAN (2020). Triana, however, takes his story to far different and more very terrifying places than most.
Thirty-nine-year-old Lori’s “interest in true crime books and documentaries was a hobby turned obsession. It was her one escape from the dullness of her own reality, the emptiness of everyday life… Killers, of all people, made her feel alive.” Her hobby leads her to a fascination with an imprisoned Edmund Cox—a killer of twenty-one young females he has brutally raped and mutilated. Beginning with letters to Cox—letters to which she receives answers and which become more and more explicit—to visitations with the intense and “very masculine” killer in Varden Prison, Lori begins to feel a bond with the man—a bond that begins to become an obsession. Cox demands Lori go to his shack, his “sanctum,” in Killen, “a rural river town with a population under five hundred” and retrieve a key, not for him, but to take to a “mystery man,” known as the “River Man” who lives further down river from Cox’s long-hidden abode. It is Lori’s chance to prove herself and come out ahead of Cox’s other female admirers. On the trek to the hovel, Lori takes her older, brain damaged sister, Abby, as she cannot be left alone and leaving her with anyone else would be mortifying for her. But nothing is as horrifying as the excursion the two sisters find themselves upon through isolated, wild, rugged terrain in search of Cox’s dilapidated cabin and key—and their attempt to find the River Man.
Triana, author of eight novels, is known for his ability to write some very mesmerizing, startling, and at times gruesome fiction. FULL BRUTAL (2018) is a prime and unforgettable example. In GONE TO SEE THE RIVER MAN Triana displays a greater depth and variety to his writing than ever before, with superb character development, command of an evocative and unsettling setting, and carefully crafted technique.
The suspense the author creates in the work is exceptional. Triana cleverly intersperses his chronicle of the two sisters in the woods with letters previously written by Lori and Cox bringing to life in first person the escalating relationship between the two. More dramatically, the author inserts flashbacks detailing Lori’s history with her parents and especially with Abby and their younger brother Pete. There are only a minimal number of additional, exceptionally well-drawn characters who appear in the novel along with intriguing, haunting, atmospheric moments of southern blues music.
With each revelation Triana provides, the story becomes darker; petrifying secrets are revealed and the novel becomes more foreboding as does the two women’s foray through the wilderness to a fate unknown but most likely pernicious.
The concluding pages of GONE TO SEE THE RIVER MAN ooze with incredible malevolence as the truth about the River Man as well as Cox and Lori’s fate are spelled out in startling, disturbing detail. Readers will close the novel’s cover in amazement of the disturbing journey Kristopher Triana has taken them. For lovers of horror, GONE TO SEE THE RIVER MAN is a well written, captivating, modern apex of the genre.
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