Jennifer “Jade” Daniels’ heart did indeed prove to be a chainsaw that cut through not just readers’ lives but, happily, into that of author Stephen Graham Jones as well. Her return in Don’t Fear the Reaper is great news for everyone but the cast of the new novel. Rest assured that death arrives early and often. But be assured as well that Jones finds himself in the zone, his writing reaching red peaks hitherto unimaginable, as he continues to provide rich characters, a setting that’s crisp, cold and chock-a-block with menace via prose that drops readers into an unending nightmare.
Don’t Fear the Reaper does all the narrative work a sequel needs to do effortlessly. We find Jade, now calling herself Jennifer, back in Proofrock, and a variety of trouble is hot on her trail. Jones’ plotting is orchestral, with themes that fade in and roar then fall back and run as undercurrents. Serial killers and supernatural monsters blur in a bloody haze, with the former real-world menaces taking the wheel while the unreal is a filter that provides a bit of distance for the human ugliness driving the horror and murder. Jones provides all the tension of a toe-tapping thriller, but drenches it in emotional characters and mirrored perspectives. (Yes, there’s another engaging “student paper” exchange with the history teacher here.)
As the middle book in the Lake Witch Trilogy, Don’t Fear the Reaper is a thoroughly satisfying novel in itself, even as it’s clear one needs must have read My Heart Is a Chainsaw and anticipates a sequel. While reading Don’t Fear the Reaper, what’s going on in the pages is all that matters. It’s easy for this reviewer to write those words, but it represents a triumphant success for any novel, and more so for any part of a series. For readers it just means good, character-driven, terrifying times.
It wasn’t deliberate, but my interview with Stephen Graham Jones has a sequel as well. Our main stage conversation was just as fun as I might have hoped. Here’s the link, and have fun – we cover both My Heart Is a Chainsaw and Don’t Fear the Reaper. But reading both brought to mind a separate conversation about the movies that influenced both novels. So here’s a link to a shorter, lightning-round chat about screen-splatter. Or settle black, find a nice glass of red [anything] and bathe in words about blood, both easy to slice into, below.
The long-form, in-depth interview:
The bloody lightning-round slasher-film sequel: