by J.A. Konrath
Background: Under the pen name Jack Kilborn, Konrath got a two-book deal with his publisher. So he wrote a book called Trapped (which is a cannibalistic gore-fest), but they hated it. So he wrote Endurance: also too intense for them. Finally Konrath said screw it and decided to publish them himself in e-book format in 2010. And we’re all glad he did.
What it’s about: The Rushmore Inn is a creepy homage to presidential obsession hidden away in the middle of Bumfuck, West Virginia. But when some contestants in the Iron Woman triathlon are offered free rooms, how can they say no?
Except that the owner of the inn is a psychotic woman with dozens of inbred children hiding in the walls, all of them with some horrible deformity and a blood condition that requires constant transfusions… from their unsuspecting guests.
Or, rather, prisoners: the door and windows are bricked over. There is no escape. The book follows a few characters who end up there: a grandmother, mother, and daughter trio who are all participating in the triathlon; a woman who lost both her legs rock climbing and runs on prosthetics, along with her reporter companion; and a woman who’s been there for a year when her fiance finally gets to the bottom of her disappearance.
The result is an adrenaline-fueled ride complete with gore, claustrophobia, and lots of “Oh, shit!” moments.
Why it will keep you up at night: This is one intense book; there’s no doubt about that. All these characters are literally trapped in the inn, which is ten times more horrific than the Bates motel. They are outnumbered by huge, lumbering crazies who want nothing more than to bleed them, rape them, and add their babies to their ever-increasing number.
But what struck me most about this book was the depth to which the characters were fleshed out and the fact that ALL of the most badass characters in this book are women. Maria has been trapped there for a year and still has the gusto to get her revenge; Deb has no legs and she still gets the better of her captors; the granny turns out to be the most kickass grandma you’ve ever met, despite having cancer. And, in the end, the most terrifying member of the inbred clan is Mommy dearest herself, who is deluded into hoping one of her sons will become president one day.
It’s always pleasant to find something in the horror genre, by a man no less, that depicts multiple women characters as totally badass rather than people who run around and scream and are helpless victims. These women aren’t victims; they are awesome, and I was captivated by each of their stories.