Book Review: Shutter by Courtney Alameda

ShutterThe Helsing Corps only showed up when someone didn’t stay dead.

After a botched mission to exorcise an unusually powerful ghostly entity, Micheline and her crew, Ryder, Jude and Oliver, are infected with a type of necrosis known as a soulchain. Soulchains slowly squeeze the soul out of the person infected over a period of seven days. To save herself and her friends, Micheline has to locate and exorcise the entity while outrunning the entire Helsing Corps… including her father.

If I’m not mistaken Shutter is my first true “horror” book. I’ve read books about ghosts and other supernaturals before but I don’t think any marketed themselves as ‘horror’. Nonetheless, this was a thrill ride to say the least. From the very first page we’re thrown into a high stakes exorcism followed by hunting nightmarish entities from the various corners of hell. Usually I’m not a fan of gunplay action, but Courtney avoided that for me by having Micheline engage not only in gunplay but her own unique style as well. Photography (how hipster).

The plot was executed well. As one would expect from a horror/thriller, everything was high stakes and creepy. Ghosts living in mirrors, zombies and even a distant relative of the Human Centipede (teehee). There was also an element of mystery as Micheline and the guys tried to figure out the identity of the entity and its motives. I had my theories and they all held out. Yet the entire thing was done so cleverly. The point of the plot was to scare you shitless after all, not make you ponder ghost psychology.

Which brings me to the first point I’m not too sure about. This book is really technical. There are words the reader will have to get used to seeing and applying to the context; reaper, necros, hypernecrotic, names of entities, etc. However, enough set up is given at the start of the book that you can follow along while the necessary information is being fed at the appropriate times. I just had a bit of difficulty keeping everything coherent.

One of the best parts of this book for me was the characters. Micheline felt real. She was understandably broken yet fought through it like any person with a duty as heavy as hers would. She made logical decisions and what was best for the crew (after the run in in St Mary’s obviously) and showed guilt when that meant using her name and her rank in the Corps to order her friends around. Ryder, the main love interest, was great fun to read. Who doesn’t love an Aussie with good gun hands? I think we can call him a ‘knight in worn white armor’. It fits him well; chivalrous, rule abiding yet not afraid to get do what is needed — especially when it comes to Micheline. Jude was my favorite of the guys though. If Ryder was the knight in worn white armor, Jude was a mercenary. Rules? Respect? Sorry, he doesn’t know what those are. Jude also had my favorite dialogue and one liners in the book. Last of the crew but ironically, the co-heir of the Helsing Corps, was Oliver. He’s our informational support character at heart but so so much more. I get the feeling he’s the kind of researcher who keeps a gun or two in his desk. Just sayin’.

The last thing I wasn’t too keen on was the romance. After a certain point, the romantic relationship between Micheline and Ryder suddenly became more prominent. I really liked that it was an underlying thing throughout most of the book so when it came forward I was a little confused. Sure you can say it was the near death experience, but to be fair this entire book is a near death experience.

My two minor problems aside I really really like this book. The world building was great, characters were great, the story was compelling and the mystery kept me on my toes (even though I was right hehe). Shutter is a fantastic debut and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Courtney Alameda’s books.

– GJA

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