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John Rector also builds it

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The Grove


Thrillers are such a mainstay of the American market that they are difficult to execute, easily laid low by faulty character development, anti-climatic plots. John Rector's fast paced short novel The Grove, a 2009 Amazon Encore reissue, doesn't manage to deliver anything beyond what readers of zombies and alternate reality cornfields have come to expect.

Ostensibly a murder mystery, Rector opens his narrative with Dexter McCray in the middle of an argument with his long time friend Greg. Dex has had a moment the night before, waving his gun around at his wife Liz, a woman who aptly retreats to her mother's house, with brief interludes of toe dipping to test the waters of her husband's faltering emotional stability.

This bit of back story received, Dexter finds a dead body in his field after wounding himself on his tractor. He starts to do the right thing by calling the police, but commercial narratives wouldn't sell without a protagonist's mental health problems and violent past lending themselves to motives for concealment. Dexter decides to play detective on his own, despite self-denial about his symptoms, never directly diagnosed. We are perhaps meant to infer that Dexter McCray is a high functioning schizophrenic.

He starts to hallucinate Jessica, the dead girl, when he is near her corpse, and from here we enter into an episode of Without A Trace grafted onto Night of the Living Dead. Although the story moves forward swiftly, chapters divided by days of the week, Dexter's personal tragedy and degree of culpability isn't enough to weary the reviewer with the ennui of endless repetition. At best, Rector limply conveys that non organized delusional states do not lend themselves to easy resolution, only acceptance that broken minds are limited vessels. He could have done this from the heart without the formulaic sensationalism to gratify appetites for gore.


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