First published back in January of 2012, British author Matt Shaw’s novel ‘A Fresh Start’ formed the seventh instalment within his ‘Peter Chronicles’ series, with this book forming the sequel to the first novel Shaw penned in the series - ‘Happy Ever After’ (2008) - and the final book in the original trilogy.

The novel was later re-released within the ‘His Name Was Peter’ (2017) complete collection, which compiled all the ‘Peter chronicles’ stories – apart from the short story ‘Before Vanessa’ (2019) – into one complete volume.

DLS Synopsis:
Vanessa was trapped in Peter’s house.  She was also totally alone now, other than Peter’s blood-splattered motionless corpse and the other bodies decomposing in his garage.  She’d explored the entirety of the house for any way to escape, but despite her best attempts, her searches had been to no avail.

She persisted with the plastic cutlery, scratching away at the cement between the brickwork that blocked the front entrance.  However, the disposable utensils did little to carve away an escape route.  Despite having a kitchen packed to the ceiling with provisions, Vanessa was beginning to realise her chances of getting away were looking increasingly slim.

Her ankle was also worsening.  The joint having swollen to worrying proportions.  Moving around the house was proving difficult.  Whenever she put even the slightest pressure on her damaged foot, crippling pain would shoot up her leg.

The situation was taking its toll on the already emotionally drained young woman.  Making matters worse, she couldn’t shake off the sound of her once abductor’s taunting voice.  Wherever she went, whatever she did, the voice of Peter would be there.  Declaring his love.  Persuading her that her attempts to leave were futile.

Vanessa was on the verge of giving up.  Her determination to escape was dissolving with each passing hour.  Not that she was able to keep track of time.  Locked away in the house, days merged together.  Time seemed to stand still.

And all the time, Peter was there.  Telling her to give up.  Telling her to stay with him forever…

DLS Review:
So, here we have the final book in the original ‘Happy Ever After’ trilogy.  It’s the one that garnered split opinions from much of Shaw’s fanbase.  All because of ‘that ending’.  I’ll get onto that in a minute, but first, let’s talk about the rest of the story.

The tale begins exactly from where ‘Happy Ever After’ (2008) left off.  Poor Vanessa is now alone in the house and her sanity is slipping by the second.  We saw the first signs of this at the end of the first book.  Those haunting last few paragraphs that probably sent shivers cascading down your spine.

Vanessa’s fragile mental state is very much the focus of this instalment.  Indeed, the whole tale is focussed solely upon Vanessa now that Peter’s dead.  So instead of the tale being delivered from a dual perspective, which they pretty much all have so far, this book has Vanessa, front and centre of it all.

It’s a deeply claustrophobic tale.  One which is spent for the large part, trapped within the confines of this bricked-up house.  For this, Shaw absolutely knows how to ramp up the tension and feeling of overwhelming desperation.  It’s all told from Vanessa’s perspective, and with this, Shaw capitalises on every single one of her heightened emotions.  The effect is one of near suffocation.  You can’t help but live the fear, the desperation that ties your guts into knots with each failed attempt at finding an escape.

What’s worse, what troubles you more, is probably our poor protagonist’s fledging sanity.  The constant appearance of Peter, whether as a voice in her head, or a hallucinatory vision of her dead abductor, piles on the horror of the situation further.  And it’s when Vanessa starts to see sense in Peter’s words – when the inner turmoil, the conflict in her mind, starts to slip in favour of Peter’s reasoning – that’s when your blood turns to ice.

There’s much more to the novel that all this.  However, to cover any further elements in the narrative would be to spoil some of the heart-in-mouth moments to come for those who haven’t read the tale yet.  But needless to say, Shaw has a hell of a lot more up his sleeve in this book than what’s covered in this review.  Scenes that will shock you as much as send your mind spiralling into a maelstrom of conflicting chaos.

Out of all the instalments in the series thus far, this is the story which focuses upon the psychological impact of a traumatic event.  This is where we witness a slipping sanity in real time.  Where paranoia becomes a foe equal to, if not greater than, a more flesh and bone threat.  Oh yes, it’ll fuck you up good and proper.

And then we have ‘that ending’.  The twist ending that puzzles as much as it divides the readers.  Of course, there’ll be no spoilers lurking in this review.  Although I am able to say where I stand on it…and honestly, that’s with a feeling of slight disappointment.  I see what Shaw was trying to achieve.  It’s a clever idea for a twist ending.  One which encapsulates the overall essence of the novel.  But at the same time, I couldn’t help but want more from the ending.  I needed something stronger, something with tighter links holding the structure of the last couple of books together.  For me personally, an alternative ending – if Shaw was to ever revisit and pen such – would be incredibly welcome.  Something I can wholeheartedly imagine many readers would echo my thirst for and fully embrace.

The novel runs for a total of 76 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

Other ‘Peter Chronicles’ instalments:



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