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The Tormentors (by Jack Phoenix)


Author: Jack Phoenix
Cover Artist: Dawné Dominique
Length: Novel
Genre: Horror / Monsters
Violence: 3
Heat: 3

eBook: 9781615729630

Print: 9781615729647

SKU: 9781615729630 Categories: , , , , , ,


Face Your Demons.
Roderick Whithers has it all; money, looks, a beautiful family, and a mistress on the side, of course. When three hellish women who only he can see beset him nightly, his prosperous life begins to unravel. While his wife, Elizabeth struggles to uncover the means of ending her husband’s suffering, will she uncover his darkest secrets as well? Hell hath no Fury, but who are the true Tormentors in the Whithers family?

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6 Responses to The Tormentors (by Jack Phoenix)


    Orestes meets Clive Barker for a twisted, original ride

    Author Jack Phoenix’s debut horror novel, The Tormentors, is a thoroughly enjoyable read by a promising new literary voice. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it doesn’t seek to do anything so ambitious. What it DOES seek to do, perhaps, is to reexamine the wheel we’ve been using and to wonder if we’ve really been doing justice to the vehicle…reminding us, really, what the wheel was supposed to do in the first place.

    I’ll start with the bad, if only because there is substantially more good than bad, and because the good will take up the lion’s share of what remains in the reader’s mind after finishing The Tormentors. If, by chance, one comes to this novel as an astute reader with a penchant for picking up on metaphor and subtext, they may find themselves feeling a little brow-beaten at times, because “subtlety” is not the word of the day in PeeWee’s Playhouse when it comes to this particular work. Nothing is ever “just a cigar” in “The Tormentors.” The novel’s central theme, however, is a complex and unusual one that often goes largely unremarked upon in the genre, and the post-feminist ambitions on display can surely excuse a debut novelist’s occasional lapse into self-indulgence. Surely, in time and with subsequent works, Mr. Phoenix will find his rhetorical scalpel has a gradually sharper edge.

    With that caveat out of the way, this reviewer must stress how refreshing it is to burn through a modern horror story that remembers what lies at the heart of the genre: the morality play. There is hardly a word in the text that doesn’t drive forward the novel’s central theme, a thought-provoking and impressive exploration of the modern male plight. Phoenix examines the way that men are assaulted with messages about who and what a “real man” should be, and in doing so reveals that the rape of the world is perpetrated by those who need so desperately to prove their manhood at the expense of all else. This is not to say that novel doesn’t resort to schlock horror in the form of gore or physical horror – but it IS to say that the novel doesn’t RELY on those things to the exclusion of a meaningful subtext.

    There are moments in which it misses the mark: it is distressing to read the novel’s only character who honestly deserves the title of a “real man” disparage himself as less of a man, and even more distressing that the novel’s otherwise perceptive female lead makes no effort to correct his misconception. In a climate of progressive legislation and social advancement for American homosexuals, it would be more satisfying to see this character assert his manhood with more confidence than he does. These moments are fleeting, however, as in most cases the message is clear and it comes across without a misstep.

    The male-plight subtext is explored even further in the novel’s dynamic portrayal of its female characters. The women are mostly strong, and even the incidental women are cast into roles typically reserved for male players in this genre. When the women are portrayed as victimized or slighted, it is not due to their own failings but to the relentless drive for superiority exercised by their male counterparts. The message is that women are as brutalized by today’s hetero-normative machismo-appeal as are the men, and that in the end this attitude leads inexorably to suffering for all who do not resist it. Even in the novel’s more stomach-turning moments, such as at least two depictions of male-on-female rape, we are kept at balance with an equivalent violation of the male figures; Phoenix’s anti-macho message claims its victims indiscriminately.

    As for the actual experience of reading the book, the reader may experience a moment or two in which it feels that the story has begun to meander, particularly around the middle of the story. But Phoenix subverts this handily: at precisely the moment where one might wonder if the story has gone off the rails, the curtain goes up on a nail-biting and action-packed final act that rockets through the last 50 pages or so with breakneck speed and culminates in a final confrontation so exciting you can see a film version in the offing (even if a Hollywood interpretation of Phoenix’s tale would almost certainly sanitize the best things about the story). When the situation finally resolves, it is with a final act of unrequited “penetration,” fired from the ultimate metaphor for phallic aggression, a handgun. After everything you’ve been through with the characters, you’ll be hard-pressed not to cheer.

    Too often, modern horror strays from its meta-textual place in the zeitgeist by reducing itself to cheap thrills and empty scares. Phoenix’s modern day inversion of the tale of Orestes makes no such mistake. If, perhaps, it could benefit from a slightly more subtle approach, and if, perhaps, there is the same room for improvement in pacing and technical minutia that one may often expect of (and forgive in) a first-time novelist, these things are buried quietly in the most important way that the novel is a resounding success: it’s a horror novel that’s ABOUT SOMETHING. And it’s something that matters.

    The Tormentors is a fantastic first novel, and this reviewer looks forward to many more from the author. It’s tempting to give it 5 stars because I know the guy and want him to be successful, but there are plays by the Bard himself that I’ve given a 3 out of 5, so I’ll be temperate and give it 4 stars for being a really killer read, with a little room for improvement. ~ Daniel, Amazon Review


    Page turner!

    I’m not great at reviewing books but I can devour them in just a few days when they are good. Ask my husband, I was reading this every chance I got! I like the twists and there were parts that made me say “Ugh!” out loud lol so I think that’s a sign of a great horror novel. Definitely excited to see what else Phoenix has up his sleeve next. Plus, I love that purchasing this book goes toward a great cause. ~ AMM, Amazon Review


    A good read

    Phoenix does a good job keeping the story moving and keeping the readers interest. His writing left you cringing as the character went through the punishment and you definitely wanted to turn the page to see what was in store for him next. ~ Joe D, Amazon Review


    A must read!

    This book just drags you in and is hard to put down. It’s deliciously diabolical and makes you want to see what will happen next. I can’t say anything else because I don’t want to give up any spoilers. READ IT! ~ TJ Sandor, Amazon Review


    Dark And Twisted

    I bought this book and read it a few weeks ago. It is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s dark and twisted and I found it impossible to put down. The characters and plot were well written and I could see the scenes play out in full color when I read the pages. The ending was perfect and didn’t leave me hanging. I think it would make a great movie! This author is one to watch and I am eagerly anticipating his next book! ~ Lover Of Books, Amazon Review


    An entertaining, graphic, and satisfying read!

    I enjoyed this book very much! I was pulled into the plot and characters instantly. The horrific details and imagery were enough to appall and make me close it up momentarily to return to my sunny life full of preschoolers. Not for long though, I was drawn right back in every evening and very much enjoyed the gratifying conclusion! An exciting first book from Mr. Jack Phoenix that has heart and purpose for it’s cause which I appreciate. I look forward to reading his next! ~ Lynze Hensley, Amazon Review

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