by William Malmborg
While shopping at the mall, Mallory receives an alarming text message from her sister's phone:
I HAVE YOUR SISTER. DO EXACTLY AS I SAY, OR I'LL KILL HER.
The mystery man on the other end of the phone instructs her to perform a number of humiliating acts, and if she hesitates or refuses to partake, Mallory receives a photograph of unspeakable acts being committed on her younger sister.
He calls it a game, but it is obviously one that she is not meant to win, and it's all leading up to a violent final level.
This is the second Kindle-exclusive novel by William Malmborg that I've had the pleasure to read and review, and while I enjoyed his previous effort (Jimmy) more, TEXT MESSAGE is far from a sophomore slump. Busting at the seams with torture and debauchery, there's a chilling darkness here that will keep you turning the digital pages well into the night, because not only will you not want to put it down, but also because you know you won't be able to fall asleep.
Told through a revolving series of POV's, we're granted access into the inner workings of all of our principals--for better or for worse.
Mallory is a believable character, a precocious sort of heroine that we hope exists in real life. Her sister Jenna, though, a mere prop for so much of the proceedings, turns out to be a much more interesting character in the end. I only wish that we had spent more time with her as an actual person.
The villain, whose identity I won't reveal, is a victim himself, who came out the other end of a trauma as a physically and emotionally scarred individual. Malmborg may offer some degree of explanation, but don't confuse this as an excuse. This is one evil bastard, and there are no bones made about that.
There's another character, too, a boy scout-type of security guard named Dan who wants to play hero to make up for past sins. A lot of the story takes place through his eyes, but unfortunately, I found him a little dull and lifeless. And, ultimately, relatively pointless.
I can't say if it was Malmborg's intention or not, but while reading I was struck by how cinematic the story (if not necessarily the writing) seemed. Many times my mind wandered off to ponder how great a film this would make if only a few tweaks for the studio's sake were made--turn the story over to the great Larry Cohen, and let him complete the triad he began with Phone Booth and Cellular just under a decade ago.
TEXT MESSAGE is by no means a Christmas story, but it does take place around the holidays. So feel free to purchase a digital copy for the lit-loving horror fan as a gift. Support author and fellow-blogger William Malmborg by downloading the book from Amazon.