First published back in July of 2016, Kit Power’s ‘Breaking Point’ collected together the author’s ‘Lifeline Trilogy’ publications along with his previously released prequel to ‘Godbomb!’ (2015).

Introduction – 2 Pages
Kit Power opens his short collection with an upfront admission of exactly what we have with this book.  It’s a collected edition of the author’s pre-Godbomb! publications, all reprinted here in a sort of ‘definitive edition’ publication.  The introduction is short and witty and charmingly self-deprecating, serving as a friendly, welcoming introduction for the grim little treats to come.

Lifeline – 46 Pages
Thirty-two-year-old Frank was listening to Slipknot on his MP3 player as he cycled home through Oakfield Estate, when all of a sudden a figure moves towards him, swinging a baseball bat at him.  The next thing Frank knows is he’s lying on the cold concrete of the pavement, his prone body being pummelled by his bat-wielding unknown assailant.

Barely conscious, Frank feels his battered body being dragged across the ground, through an open doorway and into a nearby house.  Then finally the world around him goes black.

When Frank eventually comes around, he finds himself leaning up against a wall in an empty room with Wolfmother blasting out at him at an ear-splitting volume.  He struggles to draw breath.  It feels like he’s a busted rib.  His hands have been tied behind his back.  Not that it makes much difference.  The sheer burning agony emanating from just above his elbows informs Frank that both his arms are no doubt already broken.

Looking around he can see the room he’s in is devoid of any furniture.  An empty room with bare floorboards stretching from wall to wall.  The only window having been bricked-up from the inside.

And then he sees him.  The man who did this to his body and then put him in this room.  He looks relatively normal.  Although Frank doesn’t recognise the guy.

Whatever the repercussions for his actions, Frank’s captor has accepted them.  Tonight this man plans to fulfil a fantasy.  To see how long it will take someone to die.  To see it up close.  Be the one to push a living person over the edge.  Tonight he plans to torture Frank to death.

But as Frank’s suffering is about to commence, his left trouser leg starts vibrating.  Suddenly Frank realises he has a lifeline…

I have to admit, I was keen to read this short novella after hearing it was a particularly brutal piece of fiction.  Yeah, I’m one of those oddbods who, for some reason or another, likes to read disturbing and explicit horror fiction.  And that’s exactly what ‘Lifeline’ is.  Disturbing, explicit, unrelenting, and utterly, uncompromisingly brutal.

After just a handful of swift paragraphs the violence is upon the reader.  Indeed, Power’s barely started fleshing out our principal protagonist before he’s smashed off his bike and being pummelled by this psycho with a baseball bat.

Initially Power keeps everything vague and sketchy; maintaining a particularly effective sense of confusion and disorientation, which itself mirrors what the character of Frank is undoubtedly feeling.  And it’s only as he gradually comes around and begins to assess his current surroundings that the full extent of the predicament Frank is in begins to come clear.

But it’s the way in which Power reveals the extent of the messed up situation that really gets you deep in the gut.  “I’ve always wanted to torture someone to death.”  The sudden brutality of the stamen is fucking terrifying.  It’s short and completely straight to the point.  It’s this sort of cold starkness that continues through the entirety of the novella – not only in dialogue but also in the razor sharp prose that Power slices the reader with.

Kit has very astutely made the decision to write the entire story from the first-person-perspective of Frank.  It’s a crucial move that was definitely the right one to make.  Furthermore, Power has gone to great lengths to imagine the absolute terror felt by Frank.  To attempt to replicate the utter horror of the situation and inject the rawness of it into the story.

Reading ‘Lifeline’ you truly feel like you’re there in Frank’s shoes.  You feel the teeth-grinding bursts of pain that shoot through his body, the agonising ache that lingers on from his first beating, and possibly worst of all, the all-consuming fear of the hell that is sure to come.

Power’s prose, his skill with creating a truly believable first-person-perspective, is probably the most important element in the story.  It’s what keeps you teetering on the edge of a coronary.  What’s more, Frank’s inner-monologue is equally as sharp and realistic.  Its believability helps to draw even further sympathies from the reader (as if you needed it!).  And it opens up the story for a far better vision of the character’s emotional turmoil.

Because of the sheer brutality surrounding the kidnap and torture involved, the story could (quite rightly) be seen as reminiscent of Jack Ketchum’s ‘The Girl Next Door’ (1989) or indeed Eli Roth’s ‘Hostel’ (2005).  But what’s more harrowing than the actual methods of torture or the pain being inflicted on Frank, is the way in which Frank is left waiting, completely helpless, with the knowledge that things are about to get very fucking nasty.  It’s a psychological assault just as much as it is a physical one.

This is brutal stuff and certainly not for the fainthearted.  If you took Wayne Simmons’ ‘The Girl In The Basement’ (2014) and got Ketchum to re-write it with a more violent ‘The Girl Next Door’ (1989) style of torturous approach (although without any sexual element to it), then you’d be on a similar path to Kit Power’s offering.

Grim stuff.  But a damn fine read all the same.

Right, time I visited a shrink to find out why the hell I like reading this sort of stuff…

The Loving Husband And The Faithful Wife – 31 Pages
Five years ago they’d decided to have a conservatory fitted to the rear of their house.  With his recent promotion, they’d decided they could afford to expand on their house a little.

It wasn’t long before they’d accepted a quote and the build of their new conservatory was underway.  As usual, he’d left for work, leaving his wife at home to assist the builders with anything they may require.  As he was leaving he happened to notice one of the builders preparing for the job.  A ruggedly handsome man with a tattoo upon his muscular bicep depicting a devilish looking woman grasping a banner stating ‘Bad Boy’.  Of course at the time he thought little of it.

However, upon returning late from work again, he found his wife’s manner noticeably different.  She’d already had a shower, which was unlike her.  And she seemed overly flirtatious.  He couldn’t shake the thought that something had happened.  And it didn’t take him long to realise what that might be.

It must have been his loving and ever-faithful wife who was seduced by the muscular young builder.  And in a moment of weakness, she had submitted to his advances.  Now she was clearly reeling from the guilt.  She didn’t deserve to be feeling this way.  She shouldn’t be beating herself up over his abandonment of her at such a time.  He should have been at home so he could have stopped such a thing happening.  If anything he was the one at fault.

But worst of all was that his poor wife’s honour would soon be sullied by the boasting of this vile thug.  He had to do something.  He had to put an end to this man’s dishonouring of his beautiful, loving, and ever-faithful wife.  End this vileness once and for all…

Kit Power can write.  Scrap that – Kit Power can right bloody well.  His stories are instantly captivating.  His prose and delivery is entertainment in itself.  Very much in the way Richard Laymon managed to instantly draw his audience in, so Kit Power has managed to tap into a similar style – utterly unpretentious and so damn compelling.

Indeed, on the face of it, the initial third or so of this short tale has little action or explosive drama to instantly ensnare the reader with.  However, even with the relatively mundane relaying of the characters’ day-to-day lives and the intricate details that surround them, this first portion is nevertheless entertaining simply in itself.  It’s the result of Power’s energetic and colourful delivery.  A storytelling that’s light-hearted and laced with just enough of a comical edge to keep the reader smirking from cheek to cheek.

And that’s when Power starts to get underway with the main driving-force behind his tale.  This is the point when the short really begins to gain momentum and the reader gets well and truly ensnared in Power’s writing.

Of course, as the story progresses, so the direction in which Power is taking his dastardly tale becomes increasingly clearer.  And as it does, so the heart-in-mouth suspense and teeth-grating tension begins to take hold of you.

Throughout the tale Power purposefully encourages us to side with the narrator.  It’s almost unavoidable.  Although the character’s name is never disclosed, and only a handful of details are ever given about his life, nevertheless the incredible depth of characterisation behind this quirky fella is what ultimately draws you in.  A seemingly straight-laced accountant-type, with a good job, and a painfully middleclass lifestyle; at first glance he seems easy to judge.  But as the layers are peeled back and the self-martyring side to the character reveals itself, a whole new perspective to the character becomes apparent.

It’s like taking the classic WASP stereotype and pushing the boundaries that stage further.  Even though our narrator has been so badly wronged by his wife, he still doesn’t blame her.  In fact his reaction isn’t one borne out of vengeance.  It’s one out of love and protection for his wife.  And Power tells this all from behind the eyes of our narrator – somehow convincing us to believe in this ingeniously backwards reasoning.

However, for me the real strength behind the short tale is with the almost palpable tension and the utterly convincing realism achieved through a truly magnificent attention to detail.  From the start until the very end of the story, the reader is sucked in with the believable step-by-step development of what is taking place.  Those little details that you don’t think about, but what make it all seem like it’s actually being played out before your eyes.  And it’s because of this that the mounting tension becomes so all-consuming, so incredibly dominating, that it’ll feel like it could eventually swallow you up.

Gripping, compelling and utterly nerve-wracking.

The Debt – 24 Pages
Del was in trouble.  He needed some serious money and he needed it fast.  After taking a twenty-percent cut in his wage during the credit crunch, he’d gradually racked up a debt of over twenty grand.  And it was all just stupid spending.  He’d let his wife keep using the credit cards, juggling the interest free credit until it had all eventually caught up with him.

What’s worse was that Pam didn’t know a thing about it.  He’d kept the whole matter quiet; hiding the statements and binning the evidence.  But now it had reached a point where he couldn’t hide the truth from her any longer.  He had just twenty-eight days until the credit card companies started referring the debts to the bailiffs.  And when they did, Del knew he wouldn’t be able to hide the shameful truth from Pam any longer.

He’d approached Tel in the hope of getting some not-so-kosher work on the side.  He’d hated doing it, but desperate times called for desperate measures.  The guy was a thug and a sadist.  Bad fucking news.  But Del had no other options.  But Tel had nothing he could offer him.

So Del had started contemplating suicide.  It had gotten to the stage where he couldn’t see any way out of this hole.  Suicide would sort out their money troubles.  His work should hopefully pay out, covering the mortgage at the very least.  It could be the answer.  But the thought of what it would do to their nine-year-old daughter, Jodie, stopped those thoughts in their tracks.  He just couldn’t do that to her.

And then, in the middle of another restless night, his mobile phone started to ring.  It was Tel and he had a job for Del.  A couple of hours work for ten grand!  What could Tel possibly want him to do for so much cash?  What the hell was Del getting himself into?...

Another story that just swallows you up as soon as you start reading it.  Again, Kit Power’s prose is completely unpretentious and straight-to-the-point, without any hint of unnecessary over-padding.  In fact, the story and style of writing feels so Richard Laymon that on a blind reading test I bet most would be edging towards Laymon as the man behind the tale.

So, what have we got with ‘The Debt’?  Well, in essence it’s the classic premise of someone finding themselves in such serious, crippling debt, that they can’t see a way out of the hole they’re in, other than by doing something bad.  It’s a pretty downbeat premise – but one that rings true of the realities of modern life.  Such things happen every day.  How many people in Britain alone are facing a similar dilemma?  Probably thousands, if not more.  And that’s one of the things that makes the tale so unnerving.  It’s so true to life, so god damn real, so gut-churningly possible.

Like with ‘The Loving Husband And The Faithful Wife’, the story is character-rich, captivatingly easy to read, and incredibly entertaining.  It’s what you’d call an addictive read.  One that’s pretty much impossible to put down once you’ve started reading it.

The story itself is written entirely from the first-person-perspective of Del.  And to be fair, the decision to tell the story from behind-the-character’s-eyes was the right one.  Indeed, Power capitalises on the perspective to its full effect – telling the story with quick-witted humour alongside a constant stream of true-to-life thoughts that we can all relate to.

All in all the short is nothing short of a thoroughly entertaining and incredibly addictive read, full of dry humour and a gnawing sense of impending doom for poor old Del.  The last quarter of the short races by as you sit there with your heart beating away in your mouth.  And what an ending to finish the tale with.  Brutal, disturbing, and harrowingly unforgettable.

Genesis – 15 Pages
He’d woken to the sound of his father being taken.  From upstairs he’d heard the shouting, the shattering of glass, and then the roar of a gun firing.  His father had managed to get a shot off before he was taken.  Whether the shot had done any damage was anyone’s guess.

The hallway didn’t leave many clues to what had happened.  Just a smoking shotgun, blood slowly seeping into the carpet and broken glass scattered all over the place.  As the sounds of the struggle replayed in his head, he recalled hearing Irish accents.  They’d said his father’s name.  He distinctly remembered them saying “Ted”.

He knew he couldn’t call the police.  His father had hammered that point into him.  But he had to do something.  And that’s when it hit him.  He had an idea of where they’d be going.  And if he could get there first.  If he could lay in wait for them, with his father’s shotgun in his hands, then maybe he could make it all right again.  Maybe he could save his father.  With God on his side, maybe everything would be okay in the end…

First published within the charity anthology ‘At Hell’s Gate: Volume II – Origins Of Evil’ (2015), ‘Genesis’ was written in late 2014 as a prequel to the then-unpublished novel ‘GodBomb!’ (2015), Power planned for the short tale to work as a standalone story, as well as introducing people to ‘GodBomb!’ (2015) and being a sort of ‘add on’ story for those who had already read the novel.  And with ‘Genesis’ Power has achieved this perfectly.

As with the majority of Power’s work, there’s an instantly captivating charm about his writing that ensnares you from the outset.  The hook in this story’s case is the abduction of Isaac’s father.  As soon as you begin the tale, he’s snatched and we’re flung into an increasingly tense situation where our nervous protagonist does his level best to save the day.

Power doesn’t spend an unnecessary amount of time on the backstory, instead encouraging us to simply accept the catalyst for the plot.  This in turn allows Power to focus upon his character’s incredibly human response to the situation.  The apprehension that Isaac’s feeling.  The entirely believable nervousness and his desperate hope for everything to somehow just work out.

But of course things don’t just work out the way Isaac hopes they will.  And it’s here that Power offers up another of the real strengths in the tale - his ability to portray the cruel frustrations of sods law.  Of how shit things can turn out as a result of bad luck alone.  It’s so horrendously true to life.

All in all this is a fast-paced and tense-as-all-hell read that doesn’t release you from its grip until the very last page has been turned.  It sets you up perfectly for the events of ‘GodBomb!’ (2015), gives the larger story much more of a foundation, and provides some reasoning for Isaac’s actions to come.  But probably most important of all, standing by itself, it’s still just a damn entertaining read.

Afterword – 11 Pages
Taking inspiration from Stephen King, Power concludes his collection with an afterword where he talks about each story, and how they came to be.  Taking each story in turn, Power starts out with how he first got into writing stories of over 2,000 words, and how his first endeavour of this nature - ‘Lifeline’ (2014) - pushed him out of his comfort zone with the torture porn style violence used.  Power goes on to tell us about the writing of ‘Lifeline’ (2014) starting out as a sort of test for himself, before detailing why he chose it to be written from the point of view of the victim, and about the one and only ‘story edit’ in the tale.  It’s an incredibly insightful and amusingly written piece giving you a ‘peek behind the writing curtain’ if you will. 

Next Power moves on to his second fuller-lengthed story - ‘The Loving Husband And The Faithful Wife’ and his return to the first person narrative.  Here Power references his inspiration from James Boswell’s ‘The Life Of Samuel Johnson’ (1791) before waxing lyrically about how he didn’t really achieve the effect he originally set out for, but how the end result nevertheless turned out to be something just as interesting – if not more so.

After this, Power informs us that ‘The Debt’ is his favourite of the four stories in the collection.  He goes on to tell us where the initial idea for the tale came from, why he chose to explore such a moral dilemma, and the organic nature in which the ending came about.

Finally we come to ‘Genesis’.  Here Power details how and why the short story was written and then how it fits so snugly under the ‘Breaking Point’ title.  Power tells us of his reasoning for keeping Isaac shrouded in mystery in ‘GodBomb!’ (2015) and then how it was good to “scratch the itch and take a peek behind the mask” in this prequel short story.  And with that, Power concludes his ‘Lifeline Trilogy’ and ‘Genesis’ collection.

The collection runs for a total of 129 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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