The Litter

 

Kevin Doyle's horror fiction novel features feral children.Excerpt: But after the two cops had left, Preston didn’t return to his work. Instead, leaving the cadaver open on its tray, he stripped off gloves, smock, and the spectacles he used for close-up work and headed to his office. One of his desk drawers held a fifth of bourbon, but with a bit of willpower he could have held off for a while.

The person waiting in his office, however, couldn’t be held off.

Preston walked in, nodded to his visitor and, without a word, sat down behind his desk. He reached into his desk and pulled out the fifth and two glasses. Holding one glass up, he cocked his head at the man sitting across from him.

“No thanks.”

“Suit yourself.”  Preston poured out a little more than one finger, leaned back in his chair and took a drink.

“God, that helps,” he said a moment later. “You can’t imagine what I just went through.” “I think I can,” his visitor said, “at least to some degree.”

“Did you consult with your men already?”

“No. They came right from the field to your exam room, then headed back out again. It’ll still be another several hours before they have time to write up their reports. Then I have to figure out how to get a look at them.”

The coroner grimaced.

“Sounds like you’re making this too hard, Leo. After all, in your position all you have to do is …”

“We’re still trying to keep this as quiet as possible, Pres. If our count’s right, your body tonight is number three. And so far we’ve kept it out of the news.”

“As I’m well aware,” the ME said, grimacing at the thought. “But I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about that.”

“So I’m calling in favors,” Leo said, ignoring the doctor’s obvious bait, “such as having you do the PM on all three. But if I flat out ask for the initial paperwork on a brand new case, the boys and girls under me will start to talk.”

“Don’t you think they’re talking already? After all, what I was just going over downstairs isn’t exactly your average case of smash and grab.”

His visitor sighed.

“I know, and believe me I realize we’ve got a limited shelf life on this. But until we know exactly what is cutting up residents down in the Zone, I’m going to keep it on the QT as much as possible.”

Preston finished off the rest of his drink and thought, not for the first time in the last few weeks, that he was glad he wasn’t standing in the other man’s shoes. However, his own burden wasn’t a heck of a lot lighter, for he knew something that he hadn’t yet found a way to tell his visitor. He’d been waiting for a few days for the right time to spring the information, and the discovery of a new body had just mucked things up all the more.

Because anyone with one eye could tell that “cutting” wasn’t the right word to use.

Not even close.

More like “chewing.”

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Review by Haze Howarth of Hazes Reading Addiction:

I was sent a copy of this book by the author, prior to it being published, in return for an honest review. I have read and reviewed another of this author’s works – The Group – which I enjoyed but The Litter is very different.

The main premise of the story is about a band of feral children however, it could quite easily be about any gang terrorising any community and I feel, whether intended by the author or not, that it has a deeper message about the consequences of the breakdown of society and how those living on the fringes of society are outcasts and invisible to the majority of the population. I was saddened by the experiences of the young boy and know that young people all over the world are in similar, horrendous circumstances but this isn’t just a story about young, homeless people.

The Prologue set the scene and described the setting so well it could have been any rundown and impoverished area in any city or large town. The excellent descriptions of the people and places continued throughout the book and really brought it to life.

The main characters are well developed and interesting with the relationships between some of the characters providing another aspect and depth to the story. In the main, the characters are believable however I do think that one of the main characters, Karen, was a bit like one of those cliché actors in a horror movie who doesn’t respond as you would in normal life – like going into a scary, run down and dilapidated basement when you know damn well you wouldn’t do that in a million years! However, because her personality and makeup is so well told, the author just about gets away with it but I did find myself “tutting” at her a couple of times.

Overall, it is well written, has good suspense with some gruesome and stomach churning descriptions and generally a good read.

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Review by Misty Iputi: The Litter is a unique book that can only be called twisted and great at the same time. The book will keep the reader guessing what until near the end and then it is well surprising. I love this book and have read it three times already and it never amazes me that I still get scared. This book is getting a 5/5 with a wish I could give it more.

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Review by Jaq D. Hawkins of Shadowgum: The Litter is a very well written and gritty post-apocalyptic story about a social worker, Karen, and her shocking discoveries when her work with a homeless shelter takes her into a dangerous part of the city simply known as ‘the zone’. When multiple half-eaten bodies begin to be found in the area, things get dark very fast.

Doyle can set a scene well and in as few words as possible. I found his writing style very effective and well balanced between description and dialogue. I’m not usually attracted to stories where a lot of cops and emergency service characters are prevalent, but this time it was so well done that I was pulled in at the Prologue and found myself staying up late at night just to read some more. He also has a knack for dropping bombshell teases at the end of a chapter so that you really want to go onto the next one.

The chapters are fairly short, which makes it easy to read “just one more” until much of the book goes by. There is a good sense of timing and although it can occasionally be a little repetitive, mostly very tight writing that gets out a lot of information without wasting words.

The story has neatly interwoven subplots that apart from Karen’s familial relationship dynamics and work for the homeless shelter, delve into issues of homelessness, life in shelters and the dynamics of street people. While the main plot becomes suitably creepy fairly early in the story and even moves into the fantastical, the multi-layered plot lines artfully bring out the emotional aspects of Karen’s back story as well as giving the reader much to think about concerning the social issues involved as well as the nature of sentient life.

There is some transparent foreshadowing about a significant character who doesn’t feature until later in the book, and then only in passing.  Also a couple of my pet peeves were hit, i.e. the American words ‘normalcy’ and ‘gotten’ and the use of incomplete sentences in one section, “Hadn’t done it the night before.”

However, the good points of the book far outweigh these small imperfections. There is a rather interesting point of view change to a feral kid that shows the balance between human thought and animal perceptions which I felt really brought the situation into focus, as well as some well defined details about how the ferals walk and why they don’t seem quite right. This really brought out the creep factor for me.

I did find the ending a little too abrupt, and assume a sequel is planned to follow up a loose end that was left. While I would have preferred a conclusive ending, the journey was well worth the time reading and I will be keeping an eye on this author. If you want a thriller that doesn’t pull punches and a narrative style that keeps you turning pages, this is a good one. I was thinking 4.5 stars, but with the sudden ending I’ll amend it to a solid 4 stars.

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Review by Maxine (Booklover Catlady)

Don’t read too many reviews, so many spoil the whole twist in the book. Wow. I am still reeling a bit from finishing this book last night and finally getting the whole picture eventually from what was one hell of a journey and plot. One of the most interesting and surprising plots I have read for a while. Loved it! The book is a blend of crime and horror, and it works SO well for this story. I had read another of Kevin’s novels last year and found it to be okay but not spectacular. His writing has got stronger in leaps and bounds and I can see the feedback he has taken on from others. This book was in another league and I really found it entertaining and intriguing.

They kept to the shadows so no one would know they existed, and preyed on the nameless who no one would miss. Where did they come from, and who was protecting them? In a city that had seen every kind of savagery, they were something new, something more than murderous. And one woman, who had thought she had lost everything there was to lose in life, would soon find that nothing could possibly prepare her for what would come when she entered their world.

It’s the plot of this book that makes it so good, so different. Very clever pacing and plotting as you getting bits of the story as it goes along. Opening up on a gruesome murder with more to come, but not just ordinary murders, there is something REALLY wrong with the way these vagrants died. The book being set in an area of the city called The Zone, where the homeless gather in the dark alleys and corners of the streets. Basically something or someone is killing savagely and the police are at a loss as to what it going on. The forensic evidence and feedback is shocking and makes no sense as to helping them work out how to catch the killers, that kill in such a barbaric and primal way. I can’t tell you more, it would give away the whole plot. The characters are excellently done, I was with them every step of the way in their hunt in The Zone. The main character – Karen works with the homeless and is determined to find out what is going on in an area she knows so well, even putting herself at risk herself. Much to the annoyance of her Father, who sits high up in the police force.

We first get a taste of the truth early in the book by by the time the full story and truth and twist is revealed I was fist-pumping the air for such a clever, brilliant plot. I felt so much for this book, you will understand when you read it too. This is where the true shocking horror element comes into it, but it’s not splatter gore stuff, it’s intelligent urban horror where the unbelievable becomes part of our society.

The lead up to the ending is just fantastic, I was flicking pages on my Kindle, loving every single part of it. Confused whether to feel disgust or pity, hatred or sorrow. It’s like that. The ending was spectacular and for those that like urban horror with a twist and likes some crime, police procedural and strong characters thrown in, this is the one for you. You will never guess the actual truth until it hits you. I so want to give more away, as I feel like I am not doing this book justice. I am giving this one five stars as it’s entertaining from start to finish, it’s imaginative and the writing has improved hugely from the last book I read from Kevin. I would have loved a follow on to this book too.

If this was written by Stephen King it would be a best seller. Don’t forget, a lot of independent authors have good books written, so if you are scared to try lesser known authors, then don’t be. I recommend this one to anyone that likes something a bit different, likes a twist, likes a bit of the unusual and loves a surprise ending.

Thanks to Kevin for sending me a copy of his book, I am really glad he did as I enjoyed it very much.

Maxine rated it *****

 

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