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I pulled up the piece of loose siding and slid out my best copy of True Crime. The pages, thin as newspaper, were gritty with dirt. I flipped to my favorite photo of a blonde murder victim from a few decades ago. The black ink had worn gray from my repeated touch. My obsessive fingers threatened to wipe away the entire page if given enough time.
The blonde in the photo had been babysitting when a man broke into the house and strangled her with an appliance cord. The photo left little to imagination and aroused an excitement in me – something similar, I imagined, to a young boy seeing his first centerfold. The blonde’s lip was busted and her face was swollen. Her cheeks bulged unnaturally. The only living part was her hair, which fanned out around her head in a wild mess of blonde tangle.
My brother, Lim, said I was sick. He said only sick people look at magazines like the one I held in my hands. I knew he was right; it wasn’t normal.
The babysitter photo was the first time I’d seen a dead woman in the full. Usually True Crime cropped out the details. It’s show a pair of clogs and white socks drawn up over pale calves. It’s show legs splayed apart with just a tease of blood. There might be a hand flung out from behind the couch with a few bullet casings in the foreground.
There was no propriety with the babysitter, though. She was gold.
I didn’t get a sexual thrill from looking at her. There was nothing climactic or conclusive about my obsession with her corpse. It just felt good.
When I had first seen the photo, I hadn’t been able to look away for a long while. I had strained to scan every last detail of her into my memory. Th recollection of it had become a prayer I could recount at times when my mind strained to escape Mama’s very real and present hands.
Sometimes it helped if I imagined the scene in the photo from the man’s point of view. I would try to feel the relief the man must have felt as he pulled on that cord around the blonde’s tender neck. I imagined it must’ve been quite a bit of work to take away a woman’s youth like that.
I put True Crime down and started across the street.
Suzy and her brother, Lim, live with their abusive mother in a town where the stars don’t shine at night. Once the abuse becomes too much to handle, the two siblings embark on a sordid cross-country murder spree beginning with their mom. As the murder tally rises, Suzy’s mental state spirals into irredeemable madness.
Taken on the journey of a traumatized young girl and her protective brother as they attempt to navigate through a world that wants to continue to victimize them, any reader will find this a tense read to get through. With strong themes of misogyny, abuse, and violence, True Crime is a brutal look at the mind of a young girl trying and failing to come to grips with the trauma that she has endured at the hands of her mother. Brutalized from a young age, Suzy struggles to bring together her desire to do good and treat people better, and her natural reflexes of violence and defensiveness. A story for women written by a woman, True Crime takes a closer look at the self-shame and self-hatred of a victim of sexual abuse, and the conflicting emotions that come with being mistreated by those tasked with taking care of you.
The violence of the story is inexcusable and yet it is impossible to feel for Suzy and even her brother, impossible not to root for their salvaged futures and hope for a light at the end of the tunnel. A grimy, gritty, and unforgettable novel, True Crime is a story that needed to be told.
For a debut novel, True Crime is a stunning horror debut from Kolesnik, an already seasoned story teller. With writing that creeps under the skin and sticks in the mind, this is a novel that is unique in it’s perspective and delivery and one that holds you until the very last word.
About the Author –
Samantha Kolesnik is an award-winning writer and film director living in central Pennsylvania. Her screenplays and short films have been recognized at top genre film festivals and her fiction has appeared in notable literary magazines including The Bitter Oleander, The William and Mary Review, and Barnstorm. She is one of the co-founders of the Women in Horror Film Festival. True Crime is her first novel.
Read and Review –
What is your favourite debut novel? Do you have to like an authors first novel to even consider picking up the second? What do you think about teen murderers in fiction?