Fragile by Justin R. Macumber

Fragile is the next book following the life of Maya Gallows, a paranormal investigator and blogger, as she tries to deal with the fallout of what happened in Stillwater (book one, Still Water). But even though she’s struggling with what happened she moves onto the next case. Young girls are going missing and are being replaced by dolls in a small town, so Maya goes to investigate it with the help of her young friend Taylor.img_1065

This is a very well written, and engaging story that becomes more and more of a page turner as you get deeper into the story. There is very little, if any, fluff in Fragile. The story moves along at a healthy and natural pace. The characters are well layered and feel very real, whether it’s those who don’t get much page time like Alan or main characters like Maya and Taylor, they all have a genuineness to them.

Justin Macumber is really good at setting tones for his stories. I found in this and the first novel in the series, Stil Water, especially that he can give you (the reader) a great idea of where these stories take place without overloading the story with details about how the world looks. He gives just enough to set the imagination free, which I think helps the story move along more smoothly.

The story has some pretty chilling moments in it (obviously) but it also has heart and humour as well. Much of the humour is in the dialogue, which is very strong and adds to the character’s personalities. It is a story where I said ‘damn’ and ‘oh shit’ out loud a number of times.

A quick note on the cover by Scott Macumber, it freaks me out. In a good way though, in the way that I can’t quite take my eyes off it despite the feeling that it’s trying to eat my soul.

I’ve now read five of Justin Macumber’s books and it’s great seeing him growing as a writer. Each novel feels a little more refined, a little more stronger, and like Macumber is pushing himself harder and not letting himself get comfortable now that he’s had a few books published.

Stil Water was my favourite Justin R. Macumber novel, but Fragile has just raced passed it.

Still Water by Justin R. Macumber

Still Water is the third novel released by Justin R. Macumber and is his first foray into the horror genre. It tells the story of a young man, Kyle,  who after escaping his coal mining hometown and joining the U.S. Army he is pulled back into it some years later after receiving disturbing reports of a change in character of his parents by his younger, High School, aged sister. Also entering this little American town is a blogge, Maya,  who has been drawn to the town to investigate its strange history for her website. They come together to discover what is truly happening in this town  and how it could affect the world around them.

That’s the general gist of it, I will just say how much I hate writing plot synopsis as I never feel I give them enough oomph, but to what I thought of it:

So far this year I’ve ben lucky as I’ve had a few books which have really blown my mind away and Still Water is right up there with them. The story is solid, the characters are fascinating and not cookie cutter. The setting of Stillwater feels very authentic, and creepy all the way through the book. Speaking of creepy this one did really creep me out at times. There have not been many books where I’ve flinched as I’ve been reading them, Scott Sigler’s Infected comes to mind, but this one made me flinch on a number of occasions. It also made me laugh and I actually said at one stage ‘Ewww’

Mr. Macumber has written a very tight book here, there is next to no fat in the entire novel; everything in it has a point and there are very few words that are wasted. This is one of the things that makes it a page turner, the story doesn’t take half a book to get started. There are no chapters that felt like they took a tea break. The plot deepens with each page, but the characters don’t feel hurried because of this. I’ve seen criticism of some books that say the story never gives the reader a chance to breath, but how Mr. Macumber has paced the story allows for a slow build up of tension which is eased off in various places, but it doesn’t loose that momentum of cranking up the threat which is almost always there.

One of the strong points of the novel is the characters and their interactions. They all felt very natural and genuine, especially the dialogue between Kyle and an old friend, Dirk. We can see they’re good friends and despite time apart they pick up the laddish banter without any hurdles.

The part of this story that sticks with me the most is how I felt reading it, throughout the novel there is this sense of despair and decay; which Justin R. Macumber does really, really well. He doesn’t force it down our throats, he doesn’t spell it out in black and white, it’s just there. I’d imagine it’s easy to just throw into a story lots of blood and guts and those torture porn tropes but Still Water doesn’t have those; yes it does have gross parts and those parts I mentioned about flinching but none of them would have been half as effective without that sense of decay and despair.

Please check it out, it’s available on Amazon and other fine retailers, and if you like what you see give it a go, it’s worth it.