Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent by Jennifer Gordon is a psychological horror novel that’ll please readers of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. With its universal theme of guilt and grief, it packs quite a story that could appeal to readers beyond the scope of King and Koontz fans.
Adam is a high school English teacher with a dark childhood that was exacerbated with the death of his son in a truck accident several months earlier. He counts the days since the accident to force himself to live in that bygone moment.
From all the traumas that he carries, there are physical reminders. He feels the burns of ropes around his wrists from when he was a child. As a way of carrying a permanent burden, Adam descriptively imagines how the bones of his broken body are held together by the metal of the truck that killed his son. The author masterfully describes the weight of trauma on the fragile human soul. The emotions described in these pages are heart wrenching and fuel the story’s power.
In order to cope with his demons, he turns to the bottle to drown his sorrows. Unfortunately, it would appear Adam himself is the one drowning. In an attempt to alleviate said sorrows, he visits the infamous Dagger Island, a place reputed to hold the sinister power of ghost-whispering. His goal is to communicate with his son and wife and find closure.
Dagger Island is helmed by Anthony, a mysterious 82-year old curmudgeon haunted by the deed of killing a woman 60 years prior. He also appears to have an unhealthy fixation on his dead mother, to Adam’s consternation. The emphasis of guilt surrounding Anthony’s character is reminiscent of Raskolnikov’s mental struggles in Crime and Punishment. Since Anthony doesn’t have a conscience or able to feel pangs of guilt, he has to suffer his consequences from the ghost of the dead woman from his past. It isn’t made clear as to who the woman is, but it’s implied that it was his fiance.
Said ghost is the author’s main storytelling technique that makes it stand out. The passages (in italics) are very well-written. It was interesting how both men had dark pasts and they suffered from it in their own ways: Adam suffered because of his guilt. Anthony suffered because of karma.
Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent is a must-read for fans of gothic literature and psychological suspense.