Cemetery Girl by David Bell
Narrated by Fred Lehne
Quick Thoughts: Cemetery Girl is a novel of true horror, not coming from supernatural creatures but the depravity of humankind. The combination of story and excellent narration totally immerses you into the plot, and forces you to experience all the pain and emotional turmoil of the main character.
Recently, in Dog Eared Copy’s inaugural Monsters, Murder and Mayhem post, she talked about the concept of True Horror. This is a concept that has intrigued me for a while. I love Horror and Dark Fantasy novels, but to be perfectly honest, I rarely get scared by them. Maybe a bit creeped out or a little disturbed, but rarely scared. Yet, what does scare me are the real, believable acts of depravity committed by human beings. The best horror books, whether they be about vampires, zombies, werewolves or any other supernatural creature always has an element of everyday human evil. To me, a pedophile is a scarier monster any day of the week than the bloodiest of Ghouls and the greenest of Goblins. Humanity has enough potential for horrific acts that it almost makes the evils of imaginary monsters moot. When I take on a zombie novel, it’s a form of escapism. The element that makes it fun is that a zombie is a mindless creature of horror, that kills indiscriminately based on an instinctual need. Human evil is a deliberate thought out process that people like to blame on uncontrollable impulses, but in reality it’s simply a choice. That a member of our species would choose to hurt another, and justify it is one of the scariest things of all. For that reason, Cemetery Girl by David Bell was one of the scariest novels I have read this year.
Cemetery Girl is told from the perspective of Tom Stuart, a father whose 12 year old daughter went missing 4 years earlier. Despite his wife’s urging for him to move on, to acknowledge that his daughter Caitlin is probably dead, Tom just can’t. Tom clings to every possible lead, knowing that if he gives up the search she will be gone forever. Cemetery Girl had one of the most moving, yet heartbreaking opening sequences I have read in a while. Hearing Tom talk about his missing daughter’s penchant for deception, provided such an insight into this broken and defeated man, knowing that he cannot trust anything, not even his perspective on his daughter. Listening to that beginning told me that this was not going to be your typical missing child case, that this was something more. It’s hard for me to say that I enjoyed this book. I found it to be one of the most emotionally devastating and psychologically twisted listening experiences I have had in a while. Tom’s flawed and broken character made it almost impossible to distance yourself from his pain, at no point in this novel did I feel comfortable stepping outside and viewing it like a movie. I felt immersed in the tale, and I ran the gambit of emotional responses, from anger, to hope, to a strong sense of distaste. While this book was extremely well written, and I was engaged with it from beginning to end, it was not an easy listen at all. Every character was flawed, with dark secrets. Cemetery Girl is about human depravity at it worst, and how the smallest taste of it can utterly change a person forever, making you do things you never thought you were capable of. If you can deal with that sort of emotional turmoil, I highly recommend Cemetery Girl, but be warned, you will be taking a trip down a dark path which, if you have any humanity at all, will definitely affect you.
This was the first time experiencing the narration skills of Fred Lehne, although I have seen him in countless roles in various TV shows. His portrayal of Tom Stuart just added to the affect of this novel. From the very beginning you could hear the brokenness of the main character, feel his frustration and wallow in the justifications he makes for his actions. Lehne reads with a somber pace, never rushing the story, allowing the listener to experience every heartbreak. Lehne handles the various characters of the book well, giving them each their own distinct voice that fit with their personalities. It was vital for this audiobook to work to have a narrator that could keep the listener in the story, and Lehne’s delivery was smooth and spot on never distracting you from the words being read. Being that this was his first audiobook narration makes his performance even more impressive and I hope that it opens the door for future projects for him. Cemetery Girl is the perfect example of the concept of true horror and is an audiobook that will leave a mark on all its listeners.
Note: A special thanks to the good people at Penguin Audio for providing me with a Pre-release Review Copy of this title. Cemetery Girl is available for Download on Audible.com on October 4th, 2011.