BEYOND FEAR - Jaye Ford
BEYOND FEAR is journalist Jaye Ford's first book, billed as an adrenaline-pumped suspense thriller. Which, if you're reading it with that aim in mind it absolutely is. The book starts out with one of those scenes that just make you know something bad's going to happen. Something very bad. Four thirty-something women are heading off for a regular girls' weekend away, champagne in hand, towards a remote, recently renovated barn deep in isolated country Australia. Jodie, the main character of the book, is a woman with a secret from her best friends. So, when these woman are run off the road in the middle of nowhere by a mysterious ute, have to deal with a taxi that doesn't get to them, a tow truck driver with a past of his own and an encounter with a bloke already suspected of killing a young girl in the local pub, there could very well be more than a bit of doubt as they head off to their isolated holiday destination.
Part of the reason that the alarm sirens in the back of the brain weren't deafening at this point is possibly that none of the other women have quite the same sense of fear and worry that Jodie does. Okay in itself that got a bit odd, but Jodie is also the only person who has the encounter with our creepy bloke in the pub, Jodie is the one mostly talking to the tow-truck driver who seems to know a lot about what's going on, Jodie is the woman with the background. It's possible, unlikely granted, but possible that she may be overreacting...
Of course that's not going to be the case, and things in the isolated barn get rapidly worse and worse once our creep from the pub, Kane and his weirdo brother show up - taking the girls captive, bashing, terrorising, shooting and generally causing a lot of mayhem all, it seems, in pursuit of something from the past.
So at this point, the plot's starting to wobble badly. Having said that, the pace remains breakneck, and to be frank, it's written as quite a page turner. Which made the reading experience just a little bit odd. It could undoubtedly be a scary book, although somewhere around the middle of the thing, everything that could happen, seemed to have happened - well apart from the ultimate question of who would "win" Jodie and friends, or the bad guys. Everyone had stepped into their allotted roles and played out their main pieces to camera, Jodie was the brave heroine fighting her past demons, aware of the threat. Her friends all took their role of doubting Thomas, some even taking on walking wounded to make Jodie's life just that little more complicated. Our tow truck driver went from possible threat to white knight, and the two bad guys were ... inconceivably and oddly bad. Violent, extreme, uncontrolled and yet, somehow, what could have happened to four women in this position never quite got way too bad. Having said that, there were four of them, two bad guys and a lot of cooking with frying pans.... there was something in the back of my brain that kept saying, okay girls, let's look at the odds here....
In BEYOND FEAR's defence, the tension didn't waver, and if you ignored the flashing neon warning signs about plot points, it was, on the surface a reasonable thriller, although it did rely a little too heavily on the madder than mad, big bad lunatic for the threat which is most definitely not a personal favourite. Perhaps another one of those thrillers which is just the thing for people who want something fast-paced, where the good people win regardless of how much they are doubted, how the mad and bad get their just desserts, even if it is in the nick of time and after rather a lot of rushing around and bleeding on all sides. It may even appeal particularly to those who are comfortable with the idea that the isolation of rural existence means that there's just got to be a lot of nasty weirdos lurking behind the nearest gum tree.
Imagine if your worst fears came true ... again.
At seventeen, Jodie Cramer survived a terrifying assault at the hands of three strangers. Her schoolmate Angie was not so lucky...
Now thirty-five, Jodie is a teacher and mother of two - and her past is a horror she's buried deep. When she sets out for a weekend in the country within three friends, all she has in mind are a few laughs and a break from routine.
However, unknown to the four women, their secluded cabin was once the focus of a police investigation and, like Jodie, it nutures a dark secret.