January 15, 2020
reviewed by Brian James Lewis
When I first saw author Samantha Kolesnik’s Twitter post about her upcoming novel True Crime from Grindhouse Press, I was immediately intrigued. For starters, there’s the boss cover that makes the book look like a gritty tabloid. Photos of victims and crime scenes, the headline, even a nod to a certain Mr. Ketchum…Cool stuff indeed! But a great cover doesn’t mean “jack” if the story inside can’t stand up and deliver, right? Well never fear, dear readers! True Crime kicks some major ass! Kolesnik and Grindhouse Press give us a FIVE STAR read that none of us will forget any time soon. Let’s check it out!
Suzy and her big brother, Lim, live in a cruddy rental house with their mother. This ain’t no cuddly “we can do it” kind of family and there’s nothing homelike about the place they’re all stuck in. Especially Suzy, who’s like a fly stuck in a web woven long before she even existed. And guess, who the spider is? Her abusive bitch of a mom who has zero qualms about taking what she wants when she wants it. Give in or suffer the consequences. Just ask poor Alice, the permanent houseguest. But Suzy is finally pushed too far and fights back, killing her mother.
Except she can’t finish the job alone and that’s where Lim comes in handy. Not only is he a huge hulk of a man who could kill anyone with his bare hands, but he also possesses a lot of street smarts that Suzy lacks. Switching cars and getting money for gas are just jobs that need to be done. So is killing. Lim is a man of few spoken thoughts who doesn’t display emotions. But it seems like no matter what happens, he’s got little sister’s back. At least until they make it to a funky county fair where Suzy tries to do something for Alice and makes Lim so pissed off that…something happens to change their fortunes forever.
In contrast to her brother, Suzy wears her emotions on her sleeve. Often much more than she’d like people to see. But it’s never been about what she wants, so why should that change? Whatever little moments she’s enjoyed, have been stolen. Always forced to sneak around, Suzy is letting all the fear and pain pour out of her broken self and into her victims. Or are they really victims? Some of the people they meet on the road seem just as capable of doing damage as Suzy and Lim, but they’re more sneaky about it. That’s an important part of this book, unearthing the truth and pulling it out of the shadows. Suzy’s been pushed so far that everything inside her is broken and there’s no way to make them ever be right.
Once separated from Lim, she’s fostered off to a righteous couple who are going to “fix her” with all the love in their hearts. The local church honcho thinks that he’s going to convert Suzy into a fine, upstanding, young woman. But that’s not how things work in reality. People’s brains aren’t like computers where you can replace components, wipe harmful memories, and turbo charge thought processes. During her rehabilitation, opportunities come and go, but Suzy figures it’s just a waiting game until Lim gets out of prison. Then something changes all that and ruins even the small amount of comfort Suzy’s found in her substitute hometown. Mix in a surprise visit from Alice, a career criminal, an old man and his watchdogs, and you get an unexpected ending to this novel. Or is it a beginning? I guess that’s up to you to decide.
As you can see, True Crime has a lot going on and is a super impressive debut novel from Samantha Kolesnik. Combine that with the skill and quality of Grindhouse Press releases, and it’s a FIVE STAR ratings kind of day! Powerful prose that was so detailed it felt like nonfiction! I half expected Lim and Suzy to come barging in my door. There was a similarity to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in feel, but not the same family dynamic. Lim and Suzy are the other kids who no one ever thinks about much. They live tortured lives in obscurity, but share that hurt feeling of being misunderstood and knowing that you’ll never change enough to make others accept you. Cruelty is never wasted. It just gets stored up like a bomb and when something sets it off…Look Out!
Thanks for checking out another review from Damaged Skull Writer! If you’d like more information about Samantha Kolesnik, check her out on Twitter @sam_kolesnik or at her site http://samanthakolesnik.com ! Also please check out Grindhouse Press for some of the best reading you’ll find anywhere on Twitter @GrindhousePress and on their site http://grindhousepress.com They have some nifty merch for sale, too!