First published back in December of 2015, British author Stuart Keane’s novel ‘Grin’ offered up a red-raw slab of extreme horror depicting vengeance-fuelled brutality from start to finish.

DLS Synopsis:
Dennis was good at what he did.  Efficient.  Uncompromising.  Thorough.  It’s what you needed to be working for a man like Ross Rhodes.  If you fucked up then that was it.  He’d take you down.  Get rid of you without a second’s thought, and in the very same way that Dennis was clearing out those left in Mamma Sue’s Italian Restaurant – with two swift bullets to the head.

However, that particular night Dennis wasn’t on top of his game.  He’d worked his way through the premises, executing everyone as he went.  But somehow he’d left a survivor.  Although hospitalised, it looked like the guy was going to pull through.  What sort of message did that put out about Rhodes’ organisation?  What would his competitors think if he couldn’t even arrange a simple kill?

As Rhodes saw it, he had no choice on the matter.  So he’d first arranged a hit on the survivor and then on Dennis and his family.  A message had to be sent.  Dennis only had himself to blame.

Seventeen-year-old Dani had already had a bitch of a day. She’d just found out that her boyfriend, Ben, had been cheating on her with some skank.  The discovery had crushed her.  Embarrassed her.  Felt like it had ripped her heart out.

However, things were about to get a lot worse for Dani.  Rhodes had sent his sadistic right-hand man, Bradley Innis, to clear up the matter of Dennis and his family.  The family were all at home, going about their usual lives, when Bradley burst through the front door – first killing both Dennis and his wife.  Dani and her eight-year-old brother, Teddy, had hidden away in a secret cubbyhole upstairs.  But it hadn’t helped.  Bradley had known they were there.

Teddy had been killed outright, whilst Dani had been left for dead, bleeding out on the bedroom floor - her face mutilated with a Chelsea Grin.  Despite the savageness of the attack and the horrific wounds Dani had suffered, somehow she managed to pull through.  She lived to bear the scars of the crime.  To become just another innocent victim of the escalating mob crime in London.

That had all happened a year ago.  Since then Dani had dedicated herself to preparing.  At first, Dani didn’t know the goal, the objective.  As she’d built herself up through exercise, discipline, and research, the goal slowly became clear to her.  Tears no longer spilled.  Every time she stroked the scar lines either side of her face, it fuelled her, added to the vengeance building within.  

She’d evolved.  She no longer saw Danielle in the mirror.  What she saw instead was a killer.  A killer who would stop at nothing to avenge her family…

DLS Review:
Holy shit is this a brutal read.  What author Stuart Keane offers up is an uncompromising extreme-horror-cum-brutal-thriller, sitting somewhere between Mike Duke’s ‘Ashley’s Tale’ (2015) and Meir Zarchi’s infamously controversial film ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ (1978).  In fact, it reads like someone’s taken Shaun Hutson down a long, dark alleyway and told him to write the nastiest, most violent and uncompromising vengeance-fuelled thriller he can, or his family will get it.

The novel’s drenched in more loss, pain, suffering and throbbing anger than is healthy for any single person to ingest.  Within the thick of all this hurt and needle-sharp anguish, your heart cries out for the poor girl whose endured so fucking much pain.  It’s utterly heart-wrenching.  Yet behind this is a white hot anger smouldering away.  You can feel it in your gut; in the way your teeth clench as you read on.

You want to know how to pace a novel so that all your bastard readers get so wrapped up in the thick of it that they’ll miss their train stop?  You wanna know how to tighten that screw until asphyxiation is a very possible outcome from reading the novel?  Then sit up and take note.  This is exactly how it’s done.  This is pacing that swallows you whole.  This is escalating tension like no other.

I’ve read a shit load of violent horror in my time, and it’s not often that a novel makes me cling to my seat when the bullets start flying.  But this tale does just that.  Keane’s got an irrepressible urgency about his work.  A direct link to your endorphins that gets you clawing at the pages.  He throws you into the thick of the violence and mob brutality – in amongst some of the most psychotic and inhuman gangster cunts ever put to paper.  Trust me, this novel makes Hutson’s ‘Deadhead’ (1993) seem like an episode of ‘Taggart’.

It’s not all violence and blood.  There’s also a seedy underbelly that pretty much engulfs the entire tale.  Here the darker corners of modern day London aren’t painted in a very flattering way.  Drunken women spill out of clubs in the early hours, splattering the pavement with vomit whilst spewing obscenities at passers-by, as their friends fall to the ground flashing their naked twats for all to see.  It’s grimy and grim and so utterly, revoltingly real that it makes you sick to the stomach.

However, charging through this filthy sludge is a story that demands every single emotion to be wrestled out from the reader.  In three distinctly defined parts, Keane lays down the psychological evolution of our protagonist.  Like a completely messed-up phoenix rising from the blood and guts of her slaughtered family – this is vengeance taken to a whole new extreme.

The closest you’ll come to cracking a smile in this novel is with a fucked up Chelsea Grin.  There just aint any let up from the blood and vomit splattered gutter.  No sanctuary from the bitterness.  No respite from the hurt.  You’ll feel it surging up in you as Keane drags your battered body to the novel’s final, and utterly inevitable showdown.  By now the hate and pain will be embedded in you.  You’ll feel the anger swell.  The thirst for revenge irrepressible.  You’ll want the justice.  You need it for Dani.

The novel runs for a total of 191 pages.


© DLS Reviews

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