Like Death - Tim Waggoner


Scott Raymond is a man haunted by his past and terrorized in the present. As a young boy, he witnessed the brutal murder of his family, but there is so much of the gruesome tragedy that he simply cannot remember – including the identity of the killer or why Scott alone was spared. The memories won’t come, but the trauma won’t go away.

Scott is an adult now, still emotionally scarred but learning to deal with it. He has come to Ash Creek to writer about a different mystery, a six-year-old girl named Miranda who disappeared in broad daylight one year ago. Here, Scott meets another girl named Miranda, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the one who’s missing – but this one’s a teenager. She will draw Scott into the bizarre hidden world known as Shadow. A world where nightmares are very real…and very deadly.

You could never call “Like Death” formulaic or average.

The plot is complex with tentacles dangling every which way possible. By the end of the story, Waggoner successfully pulls all the loose threads back together again, leaving me satisfied that I knew what was going on. (Even if it did blow my mind at the same time, but still…)

Much of the work is daring, with scenes that ‘cross the line’ and go to ‘no, he didn’t just go there’ places. The sick side of me eats all this up, but I have to wonder about this new trend in books. Sure, horror authors have always been on the make, trying to gross the reader out and outdo their last book, stand out in the crowd. I notice this even more now with books from Leisure and frankly, it’s getting a bit tiring. The scenes are cool but it crosses my mind that they were invented mainly for their shock effect instead of benefiting the story. Nothing wrong with having ‘shocking’ scenes, but when it becomes a staple with almost every horror book I read now of days, it not only becomes predictable, it becomes stale.

As an example - as with the giant spider?? Nope, not sure on how I feel with that one yet. A little too overdone and cheesy? Maybe. Creepy? Sure, since I hate the damn things. Does it fit? Yes…and no. Are we clear on this yet? Good ;)

As for the sex thing/orgy/whatever in the playground!??! Whoooooooooooah. This man gets brownie points for an outstanding imagination!

These plot ploys aside, though, Like Death had its share of unsettling, frightful moments. The mystery of the adult Miranda was powerful, boosting up the surreal and demented atmosphere. The main character, Scott, was likeable and convincing. His wife irritated me slightly but not because of the way she was written. Waggoner has no qualms with characterization – his ‘penned people’ are as real as they come.

The beginning was amazing; I couldn’t put it down. The middle didn’t lag, the pace was kept up, and it just kept getting weirder and weirder. Unfortunately, several chapters before the ending revealed itself, I had already figured out much of what was going on. This isn’t a common thing for me as usually I’m pretty dense, so I was disappointed. Maybe I was just having one of those rare intelligence days that take me by surprise. While I rabidly read almost all the book with glee, the very ending let me down a bit as it turned out so…so depressing. Yes, repeat after me: Depressing is good, but “unfairness/blocked frustration” isn’t. It burned me the hell up inside that …well, I’ll be a good girl and won’t spoil it.

Waggoner’s strengths are in his bizarre plots and excellent writing style. This man is just a cinch to read, his words smooth and strong. He doesn’t deaden the reader with too many unneeded words and silly phrases; he doesn’t go heavy on the dramatic side. Instead he conveys emotion, action, and reaction very well.

Overall, I’d give this book a 4. It almost made a 3, but there were enough good points to bump it up to the four rating. Waggoner’s writing style is pleasant and addicting, the plot is way out there and works – he took care to make sure it was all explained, too, I thank you -, and the characters were solid. On the bad side the ending was a bit of a let down, some of the scenes were too overdone to where they were a little weak and took me out of the story. That earns a low grade four – certainly worth reading!