I downlowaded this one from NetGalley free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
What could a front man of a controversial heavy metal band and a teenager raised by a single mother in a dirty trailer have in common? More than you think.
Josh Sebala found in music an escape from inner demons – he sings mainly about his sad childhood experiences. The texts are a bit obscure so few people really know what he’s been through. His more and more popular band, Rehoboam, is called so for a reason – Rehoboam is the name of a wayward son of Solomon, the one who managed to lose 10 out of 12 tribes of Israel as soon as he ascended the throne because he acted like an arrogant jerk. Josh prepares himself for every concert meticulously because every such event is choreographed more like a theatricals than your typical heavy metal gig – highly controversial theatricals of course. This time he is even sending one of his teenage fans two VIP passes because he wants that kid to attend rather badly.
Chris, the happy receiver of those exclusive tickets, has just had a hell of a day. He murdered his drug-and-alcohol addicted mum, gunned down her ex-boyfriend in his own house and stole from him plenty of cash plus some very incriminating materials which might land plenty of people in jail. The police is looking for him far and wide but Chris knows he has to hide and avenge himself while he can. Mind you he’s only started. Oh yeah, and he has to attend the newest Rehoboam concert because it’s the first real date with his school sweetheart and he simply adores that band. It seems the front man’s songs express Chris’s own experiences and feelings like nothing and nobody else. Is it just a coincidence, though?
13:24 was touted on NetGalley as “a crime thriller with a socially conscious twist”. I admit I downloaded it without expecting much. I liked the simplicity of the title (yes, those numbers actually make sense and they are explained in the novel) and the cover art; still I pegged it in advance as just another thriller about those preposterous heavy metal rockmen who love nothing better than earning money by shocking good Christians and impressionable teenagers. I was wrong.
First of all let me express my deepest admiration for the author’s courage. He managed to create a truly combustive mixture: pedophilia plus religion (think Christian fundamentalists) plus BDSM (with the strong emphasis on S if you get my drift) plus heavy metal. The narrative voice, told in third person limited, presented two POVs, that of Chris and of Josh. From the very beginning I was sucked inside those two stories and I waited impatiently when their routes would cross. In the meantime I never got bored although sometimes I stumbled upon infodumps concerning e.g. the treatment of PTSD victims whose ordeal started very early in life – one hospital dialogue between Josh and Mike, his best pal, sounded especially wooden and artificial. Still I was able to forgive those flaws just because the stories of Chris and Josh’s lives were getting better and better (but also more and more disturbing) with every twist and turn of the plot. Generally if a book is as unputdownable as this one I can forgive it many sins.
I don’t intend to spoil you and it would be very easy to do so; let me just add some very vague remarks and I am done.
I really loved that the author wasn’t afraid to show that sometimes victims of horrible abuse can become monsters of a kind as well. I also loved the ups and downs of Josh’s struggle to regain some amount of sanity after his trauma – because also in real life there is no instant cure, no love-can-conquer-all infatuation, no magic bullet. I do regret that there was no strong female character developed as well as the characters of Chris, Josh, and Josh’s father, Allen. Still I adored all those gentlemen, even if none of them could be described as an angel, quite the opposite in fact.
One of better thrillers, psychological or otherwise, I’ve ever read. Really. Although it mentions difficult, controversial topics and features some infodumps, it is really worth reading mainly because it is different and intelligent, it makes you think and it makes you deeply uncomfortable. Not to mention the cover which is great and heavy metal music.