I’ve had The Shed on my TBR list for quite a while now, it’s eerie and intriguing cover languishing away there with me continually thinking I really want to read this one. With this week’s segment of our Reading Challenge Month 2015, I was excited to choose Dianne Hartsocks’ paranormal thriller as my choice for review.
Alex Elson can see things others cannot. Sometimes they appear as auras—different colors surrounding a person that tip him off that something is not quite right. Other times—most often, he has visions that can strike at any time, night or day, and leave him weak and terrified. This psychic ability helped law enforcement to capture a serial killing couple, but not before lives were lost, most notably one of the case detectives’ daughters. In order to learn how to control these exhausting and terrifying times, Alex seeks out the help of Dr. Scott Reid. These two men have more in common then they know, having both been the victims of horrendous abuse at the hand of a parent. In Alex’s case the horrors inflicted were physical and mental leaving behind scars both apparent and unseen. However, Scott’s abuse was much darker. He was the prize in a weekly card game hosted by his drunken and violent father who often watched and laughed as Scott was violated sexually and beaten repeatedly.
Both men are now the product of their pasts and struggle continually with memories that threaten to suck them back into a time when they were helpless victims. So when two boys disappear and Alex is plagued with the vision of their torture, Scott decides that he will go along with Alex’s desire to be hypnotized to see if they can figure out where the boys are being held before it is too late. Along on this journey are Alex’s wife, Jane, and his best friend Justin. Their support will allow Alex to fight for the control Scott is so frantically trying to teach him. For without that control, whatever waits for him there in the woods—whatever is behind the door of that run down shed, will surely destroy any last shreds of reason and sanity Alex possesses.
Before I tell you how compelling and exciting this novel was for me, I need to point out two important items that I feel should have been contained in the blurb for this story. First, there are multiple descriptive flashbacks of physical and sexual abuse and rape. These scenes are most definitely integral to the building of the two main characters and are carefully written, but they are also extremely visceral and disturbing to read. If this type of descriptive plot line is a trigger for you, please tread carefully.
The second warning is that I was mystified that The Shed was not marked as a sequel to one of the author’s earlier novels titled, Alex. Early on in the story, it was clear that the previous case concerning a serial killing couple was the basis for this story. Several side characters in the current book were not only in that story, but were left emotionally damaged as well as Alex himself. More than once I struggled with the storyline only to realize that the incidences being built on had their first appearance in a previous novel. Had I known this was, in essence, a sequel I would have definitely read the first in the series as a preparation to understand and enjoy The Shed more thoroughly.
Neither of these warnings kept me from enjoying this incredible tale of redemption and loss. Scott and Alex were so burdened by the events of their past, both so intent on forgiving those that used them so horribly and remembering that they were so much more than victims. Struggling with their self-worth and their right to be loved, these men move through their day continually battling unseen demons and real life murderers. Because Alex is psychic, the dream-like sequences had to be lush and descriptive, drawing us into the world he sees and making us a fellow sojourner there. This author excels at painting landscapes that are so real and so effective that more than once a chill went down my spine while reading them.
For Scott, who has lost a wife who was more best friend than lover, meeting the art gallery owner who shows Jane and Alex’s work is the beginning of a tentative love he never expected to find. Arthur carries his own baggage, however, in the form of an angry ex-boyfriend who has come back attempting to be in his life once more. Scott wants desperately to begin a relationship with Arthur, but the past rears its ugly head more than once and Scott can feel the walls around his heart rebuild each time.
All the while, the fast moving plot carries us into the devastating reality that is insanity and revenge. With one frightening moment after another, the horrors that took place in the shed in Alex’s visions will ultimately bring every person Alex and Scott care for into danger. From start to finish this novel followed a path that would lead the reader into the nightmare that haunted Alex’s every moment and forced both he and Scott to face the demons of their pasts in order to vanquish those in the present.
I highly recommend this novel to you. Filled with heart stopping moments and redemptive love, The Shed by Dianne Hartsock is an incredible story of survival and triumph.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize of a loaded iPad Mini sponsored by Dreamspinner Press, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on TBR Pile week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!