Narrator: Scott Thomas
Published by Self Published / Indie on 09 August 2016
Length: 7 hrs and 2 mins
Genres: Horror, Mystery/Thriller, Suspense
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"Marvelously creepy...the horror in this tale of twisted friendship is relentless." (Publishers Weekly)
Alex stared at the red pocketknife shown to him by his daughter. A pocketknife owned by somebody he hadn't seen in years.
They met first in boarding school at age 12. Alex Fletcher, shy and scared. Darren Rust, always furiously scribbling away in a private journal. It was not an immediate friendship, but then one night Darren convinced his roommate to sneak off school grounds to see something glorious. There was a sleazy strip club, you see, and every once in a while the back door opened just long enough to maybe catch a quick glimpse.
Though a bond was formed from their prepubescent interest in naked women, Darren had another interest. A morbid curiosity about death. A curiosity that turned into something much more sinister.
They crossed paths again in college and became the best of friends. But Darren wasn't just looking for a friend. He had dark, ghastly urges squirming around in his head, and he believed he saw the same things - the urge to hurt, the urge to kill - in Alex. He was looking for somebody who understood. A partner.
But Alex could never become a monster. Not even when Darren tried to bring out his friend's most deeply buried feelings of rage. Not even when Darren tried to show him the euphoria of having that much power over another human being. It just couldn't happen...right?
Now Alex has a wife and a daughter. And Darren is back. He's hiding. He's patient. His mind is twisted in the worst possible way.
And he's seeking a soul mate.
©2005 Jeff Strand (P)2016 Scott Thomas
Pressure can be defined as the exertion of force upon something by something else, as well mental or physical distress. Either definition is appropriate for Jeff Strand’s aptly titled suspense thriller, Pressure. At its core, this a story of two forces impacting one another, forcefully and violently, and the result is a hefty dose of distress.
Alex and Darren are two boarding school brats, their friendship cemented by a late-night excursion into the woods behind a strip club, where they hide out and hope to catch sight of the action inside. Darren, though, has a secret, and once Alex and their schoolmates discover Darren’s morbid fascinations nothing is the same. What follows is a decades-long story of friendship, adversarial rivalry, and gruesome deeds that can only leave one of them alive.
Strand does a terrific job building his characters, giving them enough dimension and subtle shadings to make them relateable, even if you don’t particularly want to relate to them. And although Darren’s actions are often outside the din of understanding, you at least get what motivates him, even if the results are terribly aberrant. Alex is a solid every-man character caught up in a situation beyond his control and struggling to cope, struggling to make sense, and, mostly, struggling to find a solution to the problem that is Darren. The first-person viewpoint Strand uses allows us to see the world from Alex’s point of view, and while the story itself is pretty pitch-black, Strand, via Alex, is able to interject enough levity and enduring positivity to keep Pressure from collapsing under its own misery.
Pressure is narrated by Scott Thomas, whose voice talents I greatly enjoyed in a prior Strand title, Wolf Hunt. Here, Thomas exhibits a nice a range and listeners are unlikely to confuse characters during stretches of dialogue. While the story belongs to Alex, Thomas injects plenty of different voices and speech styles to mark the other characters that inhabit Pressure. Soundwise, this is a cleanly narrated book, with terrific production quality and no technical issues to speak of.
Clocking in at seven hours, Pressure is a solid psychological suspense thriller with dashes of Strand’s typical wry humor, and packed with plenty of history between the central antagonist and his nemesis. It’s entertaining, occasionally bleak, but highly worthy of attention. Between the two works I’ve listened to that Strand and Thomas have collaborated on, I think it’s fair to say they make quite a good team. As long as Strand keeps writing, and Thomas keeps giving a voice to those words, I’ll be listening.