First published back in May of 2012, British author Matt Shaw’s ‘9 Months Trilogy’ ebook collected together all three of the ‘9 Months’ stories from the ‘Peter Chronicles’.

The ‘9 Months’ books were never given a physical hardcopy release, other than their inclusion within the ‘His Name Was Peter’ (2017) complete collection, which compiled all the ‘Peter chronicles’ stories – apart from ‘Before Vanessa’ (2019) – into one complete volume.

- 9 Months: Book One -

Jessica woke in just her underwear, lying across a urine-soaked mattress.  She had no idea how or why she was there.  She was handcuffed to the bed.  Her wrists sore from the tightness of the cuffs.  Looking around, she could see a set of stairs leading upwards in the corner of the room.  Apart from that there were no other visible windows or doors.  Just the gloom of the room she’d surmised to be a cellar.

Above her she could hear movement and the occasional mutter of voices.  Who had done this to her?  What had they done to her?  And most importantly, why?

In the gloom of the cellar, Jessica’s thoughts went back to happier times.  She remembered when Darren had taken her out for her first ever date.  The posh restaurant they gone to.  The way he’d been a gentleman to her all night.  The silly little jokes he’d make.  How nervous she’d been that night.

Her trail of thought was broken by the emergence of a hooded figure.  From the way the figure held themselves, it was clearly a man.  Although he never uttered a word.  If he wanted her to do something, he’d written it down.

What the hell was he planning?  What was going to happen to her?  The only indication of what the man wanted was when he put his hand to her belly.  At that moment Jessica realised he knew.  That it was all about the baby growing inside her.  All this, was because she was pregnant…

And so it begins.  The first story (chronologically speaking) in the ‘Peter Chronicles’.  Although, it wasn’t the first instalment to the series that Shaw wrote, he has however ensured the tale works for those who are new to the series and for those who’ve already read the ‘Happy Ever After’ books, which were written and released prior to this ‘9 Months’ trilogy.

This first novella is written almost entirely from the perfective of seventeen-year-old Jessica.  There’s a short chapter written from the perspective of her boyfriend, Darren, but besides this, it’s all from behind Jessica’s eyes.

The entire story is told via two parallel running narratives.  The first follows Jessica as she goes on her first date, gradually getting to know Darren better over the ensuing months, and with her eventually winding up pregnant.  The second narrative is set a short while later, where Jessica has woken up, handcuffed to a urine-soaked bed within a gloomy cellar somewhere.  The short chapters constantly alternate between these two narratives, playing off each other, and building the suspense for the final ‘reveal’.

To be honest, the twist ending for this first instalment is fairly predictable at best.  A lot of focus is put upon the big reveal at the end.  The hopefully jaw-dropping twist.  But if like me you guess where its leading from relatively early on, then sadly all this build up, all the mounting tension and suspense, is lessoned quite substantially.
However, for an opening story, one which lays down the very first foundations for the series (i.e. the conception of Peter), it more than does its job.  The story’s tight and gripping, with some great characterisation helping keep the reader engaged and fully invested into what’s to come.

The novella runs for a total of 74 pages.
- 9 Months: Book Two -

The thought of Jessica killing her own baby was too much for her parents – Bryan and Fiona.  Even after all these years, the memory of her own stillborn child still haunted Fiona.  She’d always blamed herself for her baby’s death.  Putting the death down to the abortion she’d had a number of years beforehand.  The last thing she wanted was for her daughter to go through the same anguish.

Clearly what Bryan had done was difficult to accept.  Fiona couldn’t see how any of this was going to work.  Bryan’s plan relied on their daughter not knowing who was responsible for holding her captive.  But now Jessica had seen it was Bryan.  Her father.  Now she knew it was all down to them.  And she’d started pleading for release.  Begging to see Darren.

Fiona was close to giving up on the plan.  Close to letting Jessica go.  That was until Jess said all she wanted was to get out of the house and get her unborn baby out of her.  Even now, after all of this, she still wanted rid of it.

None of it was supposed to happen like this.  But it had.  And now they had to deal with it accordingly.  There was no other way.  But at least the baby would be okay. Despite everything they’d been through, at least the baby would be okay…

This second instalment (chronologically speaking) follows on almost immediately from where the first book left off.  Jess now knows her parents are responsible for her being held captive.  Accordingly, the tale jumps straight into the monstrously tense atmosphere that the first book spent it’s time establishing.

Like the first book, the characters are what drive the story.  In particular, here we’re given Bryan and Fiona’s back story.  We get to see what’s ultimately motivating them to do this to their daughter.  Learning of the struggles they’ve had with making their own family.  The loss and heartache which has driven them to do what they’ve done.  And the fact Jessica is adopted.

The setting for this second instalment is very static.  It’s entirely set in the house Bryan’s been refurbishing.  A property out in the middle of nowhere which has proven to be ideal for their inter-family abduction.

What stands out the most in this instalment is the slipping (and entirely questionable) sanity of Jessica’s parents.  Shaw’s paid particular attention to the way they interact with each other and their prisoner daughter.  The dialogue is stressed and tense.  The mannerisms, showing subtle suggestions of a sliding sanity.

There’s a pretty darn explosive climax to the story.  One which feels like it suddenly appears out of nowhere.  Leaping upon you catching you completely off guard.  Which makes it even more powerful.

This my friends is a solid addition to the ‘Peter Chronicles’ and one which lays down more fundamental building blocks for the story.  Furthermore, it’s also a damn fine read in itself, packed with nail-biting tension and simmering suspense.

The novella runs for a total of 61 pages.
- 9 Months: Book Three -

Jessica was dead to Fiona now.  As dead to her as her husband actually was.  All that mattered was the baby.  Fiona knew she had to do whatever it takes to ensure the baby was safe.  Even if that meant losing everything else.

Fiona knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  With Bryan dead, she had to take care of everything herself.  Make sure Jessica stayed put.  Make sure she was kept healthy.  Make sure she was kept safe and that no one found out where they were or what they’d been forced to do in order to preserve the life of the unborn child.

It was clear Jessica couldn’t be trusted.  Not only had she murdered Bryan, but Fiona could tell her daughter was merely saying the things she thought would get her out of there.  But Fiona knew Jessica.  Knew when she was lying.  She wouldn’t fall for her tricks.  The girl would stay there, in that house, until the baby was finally born.  Then Fiona knew a decision would need to be made.

Fiona had a lot to do to get prepared.  Bryan’s body had to be disposed of somehow.  Fiona knew she also need to get supplies in.  Have the house prepared for when the time came.  It was all for the baby.  It had to be.  Everything was being done for the arrival of that beautifully pure new baby…

The previous instalment concluded on a spectacularly brutal note.  With the death of Bryan and the continued incarceration of Jessica in the cellar, Shaw now has one incredibly powerful storyline to build upon.  And that’s exactly what we have with this third instalment (chronologically speaking), which forms the final book in the ‘9 Months’ prequel trilogy.

Everything is now geared up for those final months before the birth.  With so much already established in this tension-heavy narrative, Shaw is able to focus his attention on the plummeting sanity of Fiona, and the utterly messed up relationship between her and her adopted daughter.

This is where the story really excels.  This premise is so utterly unbelievable, so outrageously far-fetched, yet through magnificently crafted writing, Shaw manages to make it all so terrifyingly believable.  Much of this is down to the carefully penned dialogue, which displays haunting subtleties and depth.  You can literally read into almost every word spoken.  Play the role of an amateur psychologist.  Form your own picture of Fiona and Jessica.

It’s undoubtedly the believability of these aspects within the story which makes it such a powerful read.  Perhaps none more so than when the baby is actually on its way.  You’ll barely be able to breathe during the childbirth.  The vivid details.  The pain, the fear, the terrifying reality of it all hitting this poor girl like a falling tonne of bricks.

But it’s those inner, unspoken thoughts which we as readers get to see, where the magnificent human element to it all really comes out.  The instant emotional attachment Jessica has with her baby.  The turmoil of her thoughts as everything is thrown in the air.  It’s breath-taking.

There’s a lot more in this third instalment than just keeping the girl captive until the birth.  We also learn what happened to poor old Darren, we witness the hardship Fiona and Bryan went through when they lost their own child, and we see the difficulties Fiona faced with keeping a lid on the sudden disappearances of these individuals.

Quite simply put, there’s a shitload going on in this story.  But it’s all driven by two characters who we’ve now gotten to know so well – Jessica and Fiona.  The depth to their character development is phenomenal.  It makes the story.  Pumps blood through its veins.  And gives that final conclusion to this third book the solid-steel punch that it so needed to deliver.  Incredible writing.  Outstanding story.

The novella runs for a total of 50 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

Other ‘Peter Chronicles’ instalments:





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