First published back in October of 2008, British author Matt Shaw’s novel ‘Happy Ever After’ was the first novel to be penned in the ‘Peter Chronicles’ series and the sixth instalment in the chronology of the books – not including the short story ‘Before Vanessa’ (2019).

If you’re reading the books in chronological order (which is recommended), then you’ll want to slot the ‘Before Vanessa’ (2019) chapbook in, just before you embark upon this tale.

The novel was later re-released 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.

DLS Synopsis:
For the past four weeks the girl had been assisting Peter with his internet banking.  At first he thought she was quite rude.  But over the next few meetings, Peter had grown fond of her.  He’d realised she was probably just reacting to the all the hassle she received from the endless lines of customers.  She was prettier than the other dates he’d had.  A brunette with a smile that lit up her face.  She could very well be then one.  Peter certainly hoped so.  It would be a shame to kill her.  Besides, the garage was getting full.

Since their first meeting, Peter had been preparing his mother’s old farm.  Bricking up the windows and doors.  Making it secure.  Ready for her arrival.

Peter was excited by the prospect of what was to come.  The time the two of them would share together.  He had to get it just right.  Their time together would be precious.  Time for their love to blossom.  Time for her to become totally his, and his alone.

And when she got there.  When she woke up in their house for the first time.  Peter knew she’d realise the lengths he gone to just for her.  The sacrifices he’d made.  It was all for her.

Then he’d ask the all-important question.  The question which would map out the rest of their lives together.  If there was no one else, just her and him, for the rest of their lives…could she ever love him?

For twenty-nine-year-old Vanessa, her answer to the question was simple.  She’d do whatever she could to survive.  Whatever it took to get through this and get away from this madman.  Her answer was “yes”…

DLS Review:
So, this is where it all began.  This was the first book Shaw penned in his ‘Peter Chronicles’ series.  In the chronology of the series, it actually slots in as the sixth instalment (although the ‘Before Vanessa’ (2019) chapbook would actually slot in just before this book), with Peter now a thirty-two-year-old man with one fucked-up vision of creating a ‘Happy Ever After’ scenario of him and the not-so-lucky girl he chooses to fulfil the part of his partner.

Here we see so many of the details from the various (latter written) prequels, now coming into play within the story.  Things like the PVC red dress, the microwave meals, the stripped bare house, and of course the recent demise of Susie.  These were all written as small details within the formation of this novel.  Small details to flesh out the fuller painting of the original tale.  However, through their incorporation within the latter penned prequels, they now hold that much more weight.  That much more meaning.

How Shaw has carefully worked backwards, taking these intricacies and weaving them into those ‘chronologically earlier’ instalments is nothing short of ingenious.  It’s done so flawlessly, so incredibly neatly, that the progression of the story is pretty much perfect.  Seriously, not a hair is out of place.

As with all the books in the series, the narrative is delivered through the eyes of these two principal characters living the story.  The whole thing is built from their dialogue and thought processes.  And through that, Shaw is able to create a tale which feels intimate, personal, and hauntingly real.

This particular book is undoubtedly the ‘key instalment’ in the whole series.  Not just because it was the first to be written, and therefore formed the basis for the plot, the concrete platform from which the others were then built upon.  Rather, this book delivers the absolute essence of the whole series.  It shows us Peter in all his terrifying but entirely human wretchedness.  Its story is the fundamental backbone of the entire series.  The crucial episode which everything had been penned towards.  Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint one fucking bit.

The idea behind the tale is as terrifying as it is inspired.  A psychologically disturbed male who abducts a young woman, so he can create a fucked-up fairy-tale existence for the two of them, as forced lovers spending the rest of their lives together.  A sort of Matt Shaw does ‘Misery’ (1987) affair – only a great deal darker.

The delivery of the story is done in a sort of piecemeal format.  Only as the novel progresses do we learn the lengths Peter has gone to in order to create this ‘Happy Ever After’ scenario for him and his victim – Vanessa.  As the chapters progress, so we learn more and more about how terrifyingly psychotic he is.  How far his delusion extends.  How twisted his sociopathic mind is.

Again, as with the other books in the series, the real standout strength in the tale is with the delivery of Peter’s perspective.  Observing how his mind works, how he rationalises his decisions, and justifies even the most messed-up actions.

I should warn you that this is extreme horror.  It’s very much a Matt Shaw offering.  So, expect all those trademark moments that’ll churn your gut.  We’re talking violence, rape, graphic scenes of visceral gore and a wee appearance of our old friend cannibalism.

 If you’ve enjoyed any of Shaw’s other offerings, then this is definitely one you’ll want to pick up.  Although, to get the most out of the tale, it’s best to read the books in chronological order, so via the omnibus ‘His Name Was Peter’ (2017), which is only missing the ‘Before Vanessa’ (2019) short story.  That way you get to understand more of what’s behind the villain of the piece.  You get to know Peter that much better.  And because of that, this fucked-up story becomes that much darker.

The novel runs for a total of 96 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Peter Chronicles’ instalments:



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