cover image Brother


Ania Ahlborn. S&S/Gallery, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8373-4

Ahlborn (Within These Walls) paints a grim portrait of a murderous family circa 1980 in this visceral, nihilistic thriller. Nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow lives in rural West Virginia with his parents, Wade and Claudine, and his siblings, Reb and Misty Dawn. Michael wants nothing to do with his family’s psychotic hobby of murdering transient young women, but is literally left to pick up the pieces after their gruesome escapades. When Michael meets Alice at a local record store, he’s smitten, but also desperate to keep her away from his family’s extracurricular activities; unfortunately, psychotic, unpredictable Reb has other ideas. Comparisons to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre are inevitable, but Ahlborn’s impressive writing and expert exploration of the psychological effects of systemic abuse elevate what could have been the literary equivalent of a slasher flick, and the twist in the final act is jaw-dropping. This relentlessly grim tale is most definitely not for the squeamish, but it’s nearly impossible to put down. Agent: David Hale Smith, Inkwell Management. (Oct.)