First published back in August of 2017, ‘Mad Dog’ formed the fifth full-length novel from British horror author J.R. Park.

DLS Synopsis:
Fresher’s Fortnight was coming to an end when Hannah Miller and her fellow student friends decided upon a fancy dress pubcrawl.  The irony of Hannah’s costume only occurred to after the events of that fateful night.  She’d gone as the classic Little Red Riding Hood.  A bright red hooded shawl, short skirt, stockings and all.  Hannah had just popped out to find a cashpoint when she came across Mitch Mad Dog Mooney.  In a darkened alleyway she saw his shadowy form ripping into the blood-soaked supple flesh of young girl.  His animal grunts echoing in the deafening silence of the moment.  Unlike Mooney’s young victim, Hannah Miller was lucky to have gotten away with her life.

Mitch Mad Dog Mooney was sent to Darkdale prison for what he did to Hannah and the young girl that night.  A prison full of the worst, most hardened and despicable scum.  His arrival caused a stir in the inmates.  Rumours of a man that was more savage beast than human were whispered down Darkdale’s corridors.

Prior to Mooney’s incarceration the Webster brothers ruled Darkdale.  The three brothers were universally feared and despised throughout the prison.  Their dominance secured through intimidation and violence against anyone who crossed them.

The Webster brothers were far from happy about the arrival of Mitch Mad Dog Mooney onto their turf.  Their position as the most feared inmates was suddenly in question.  The confrontation was inevitable.  But when Mike Webster started mouthing off to Mooney about how they ran Darkdale, how Mad Dog was nothing round there, and how Darkdale was their territory - Mooney’s response secured his position at the top of the food chain once and for all.

But for Jimmy Eades, the fight for supremacy in Darkdale was just another aspect of prison life to try to keep the hell away from.  Although, invariably he’d end up being pulled into it all.  On the outside, Mad Dog had already attacked his ex-girlfriend, and now it seemed the Websters had it in for him.  The Governor just made matters worse.  Despite his authority, despite the respect he commanded, he was just as much a monster as the majority of the inmates in Darkdale, and proud of it.  But Mooney was the nightmare even the monsters feared.  A monster even the Governor feared.

They say there’s a monster inside all of us.  With Mooney, that monster was well and truly out…

DLS Review:
It was only a matter of time before Park pulled a perfect score out of the bag over at DLS Reviews.  His work has been consistently high scoring, showing a versatility and diversity that’s pretty much unparalleled.  But with ‘Mad Dog’ Park’s really tapped into something special.  A raw and urgent horror that comes gnashing its teeth at you from all angles.  This is Park at the top of his game.  At the absolute best we’ve seen him at.  You need this book.

So, what’s the deal with ‘Mad Dog’?  Well, once again we see Park trying out another quirky style of storytelling.  Here we have him giving an epistolary novel a go.  If you’re not altogether familiar – think Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ (1974) or Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ (1897) where the tale is told via a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings or other such documents; all of which have been spliced together to form a sort of ‘pieced-together-jigsaw’ of a story if you will.  For Park’s offering we have extracts from a series of interviews and dictaphone recordings, sliced up and then spliced together to form the story as a whole.  Each extract is short – usually no more than a paragraph or two – which allows the story to flow with a completely natural rhythm.  But the real magic behind this approach is in how it allows for a multi-angled perspective throughout its storytelling.  At every given moment, for every event and point in the tale, we’re able to see it from a variety of perspectives - from one side (say the convicts) to the other (the wardens).

As I stated, the flow is incredibly natural.  The intricacy of the carefully crafted statements is impeccable.  The way Park has painstakingly given each character their own unique voice, enhances the telling of the story a thousand times over.  It gives it an air of absolute believability.  The quotes sound so genuine.  So god damn real.  It’s breath-taking and bloody unnerving.  Couple that with the premise and setting and you’ve got yourself something that’s nigh-on impossible to pull yourself away from.

These characters are all talking to you.  Retelling what they witnessed during the heart-pounding series of events detailed in the book.  It’s got the savageness and raw brutality of an all-out brawl that spills out of the very pages you’re gripping tightly in your hands.  An absolute determination to plunder into the darkest pits of human aggression and dig out the animalistic instincts from the very worst of dog-eat-dog environments.

But there’s one dark aspect that rises out of the throngs and drowns you in absolute dread.  Mitch Mad Dog Mooney.  One truly terrifying motherfucker.  I’m struggling to find the words to describe how well Park has conjured up such a beast.  And when I say beast, my god do I mean exactly that.  This creature, this messed-up mind-fuck of a madman, makes Charles Bronson look like Winnie-the-frigging-Pooh.  The guy’s more animal than man.  Trust me, you’ll see what I mean the second you’re introduced.

To describe the novel think ‘Shawshank Redemption’ (1994) meets ‘An American Werewolf In London’ (1981) with a ‘Carrie’ (1974) style of storytelling.  Every concrete-cold inch of this book has enough energy and barely-restrained tension to put your guts through a deep-clean cycle.  There’s anger and fear spilling out everywhere you turn.  The magnification of the prison environment is truly terrifying.  A tomb where all hope in humanity withers with a self-inflicted haste.  It leaves you gasping for air after each shank-stab of a statement from those circling the drain inside.

If I’m honest it’s not often I’ll find that my reviews struggle to do a tale justice.  The in-depth dissection that DLS Reviews offers allows me to (hopefully) get under the skin of the tales being reviewed.  However, here I feel another thousand or so words still wouldn’t do the magnitude of the oppressive and fucking explosive horror that Park offers up justice.  There’s so much detail in here.  So much astutely tapped into terror.  The human element is there.  It’s a pale white skin that’s battered and bruised and sliced over and over and over again until the pages are saturated with blood.

The last quarter or so of the tale is something else.  The savagery and violence has bubbled over and this ‘steel-bars-and-concrete’ cesspit has become an epicentre for unrestrainable chaos.  The mayhem of the riot that Park depicts is something born from hell itself.  It rips you open.  It batters you with an assault on the senses like no other.

And then there’s the ending.  Holy fuck the ending.  The twist.  The perfectly executed, exquisitely nurtured twist.  If you saw this coming then you’re a more perceptive person than I.  It makes you want to turn back to the first page and re-read the whole thing again, this time with your new knowledge showing you it from a whole new perspective.  But I desperately don’t want to give any of the twist away.  So I’ll leave it at that.

What you get with ‘Mad Dog’ is a novel that will sink its teeth into you.  It’s rawness and savagery doesn’t stop mauling you from the moment you first set foot within the terrifying cesspit of Darkdale Prison.  This is terror.  This is ferocious bestial brutality unleashed.  Prepare yourselves, for Mitch Mad Dog Mooney is fucking coming for you.

The novel runs for a total of 189 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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