Alan Lastufka

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Face the Night received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews!

DECEMBER 15, 2021
Face the Night: A Novel

Kirkus Reviews awarded Face the Night a starred review today!

“An impressive, complex horror tale—two (rotting) thumbs up.”

The review from Kirkus is overwhelmingly positive. And the fact that it was starred is incredible. According to the Washington Post, only 2% of all indie books submitted are awarded a starred review. Only 2%!

Kirkus is the industry standard for professional reviews. It’s used by everyone from small first-time indie authors (like me), all the way up to the largest names in publishing (like Stephen King). And it’s the publication that thousands of librarians, small bookstore owners, and readers use to find new titles. I am so thankful the reviewers there enjoyed the book.

“This outstanding novel is reminiscent of early works by Stephen King and Peter Straub.”

Full Review:

In this debut novel that fuses horror and supernatural mystery, a woman struggles to understand a recurring nightmare that has haunted her since childhood.

Set in the fictional town of Cellar, Ohio, in 1987, the story begins as Adriana Krause—an unemployed, single mother trying to make ends meet—is embroiled in a custody battle over her 3-year-old son, Dylan, with her estranged father, Bradley Krause. Bradley is the longtime mayor of the town. After a court judge decides that in order for Adriana to keep custody of her son, she needs to secure gainful employment in the next 30 days, her life goes from bad to worse. Dylan’s biological father, Eric—a drug addict who has had nothing to do with Adriana and her son for years—overdoses and dies on her couch while babysitting the boy as she attempts to get hired as a sketch artist for the local police department. Because of her uncanny ability to bring subjects to life on the sketch pad, she gets the job—barely—and befriends a rookie cop named Matthew Hinkley. The two are both outsiders of sorts and find common ground questioning the strange and seemingly unethical decisions coming from the mayor and the police chief. As Adriana fights to keep custody of her son, she becomes increasingly beleaguered with a dream that has haunted her for years. In the dream, she is underwater at the bottom of a lake when a rotting arm explodes from the sediment, grabs her, and begins pulling her down. When she sees the corpse’s face, it’s trying to tell her something. As her father becomes embroiled in a contentious mayoral race, Adriana and Matthew begin to piece together the clues that they’ve uncovered—some from his work with cold-case files and others from her evolving nightmare—and the conclusion they both come to is as shocking as it is gruesome.

This outstanding novel is reminiscent of early works by Stephen King and Peter Straub. Lastufka brilliantly uses subtle imagery and symbolism throughout to create a decidedly dark undertone that is simultaneously creepy and nostalgic. In the very first sequence, for example, Adriana tattoos a laughing, rotting skull onto the arm of her former boyfriend as ’80s tunes blare from the radio. The utilization of music from the era adds another layer to the narrative and creates a memorable soundtrack to Adriana’s story that includes Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove,” Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” and Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” And, like the aforementioned horror luminaries, the author employs sensory descriptions masterfully, using them to fully immerse readers in the eerie atmospherics: “She listened. The water lapped gently at the shore, hundreds of branches creaked under the weight of the breeze, nearby frogs croaked at the moon, and there was a faint chiming. Adriana didn’t expect to find anything pleasant in this nightmare world, but the distant bell chimed continuously, monotone and somewhat soothing.” But, above all, it’s the surprisingly intricate plotline that powers this narrative. The wide-ranging characters—from Adriana’s neighbor’s deaf teen daughter to the courageous wife of the candidate running against Bradley—are like puzzle pieces, and with each new revelation, the grisly picture becomes clearer.

An impressive, complex horror tale—two (rotting) thumbs up.