TORN by Lee Thomas (2011 Cemetery Dance Publications / 130 pp / limited edition hardcover)
Lee Thomas delivers the latest installment in Cemetery Dance's novella series, this time pitting a small town sheriff against a group of shape-shifting creatures.
Sheriff Bill Cranston's wife self-medicates in retaliation to an affair she's convinced he's having while their two young daughters are hardly looked after. With his home life in turmoil, Cranston is called to investigate the disappearance of a young girl named Maggie. They discover her in the woods, tied to stakes, yet unharmed; turns out she was used as bait by a werewolf-like creature to send a message. The creature also savagely kills Arthur, a man who volunteered to search for Maggie, then seemingly vanishes despite being shot twice by Cranston.
The next day Cranston learns a suspect has been caught; in his jail's small cell is Douglas Sykes, a nutcase who answer questions in poetic riddles and has the same bullet wounds on him as the creature he had shot the previous evening. Sykes then delivers a warning that a group of creatures are about to attack the small town of Luther's Bend, looking for him. Cranston eventually believes Sykes is indeed a shape-shifting creature, and takes precautions in an attempt to protect his family and his town. An exciting and gruesome battle soon plays out at the police station.
TORN is a top-notch novella that packs as much punch as most full-length novels. Lee's creature feature also deals with Cranston's inner demons, and will leave the reader with much food for self-contemplation. This is a smart, expertly-written graphic horror tale enhanced by some great interior artwork by Vincent Chong.