Driving home through a fierce blizzard, Dan and Megan, accompanied by their teenage daughter Nikki, spot a man standing in the middle of a dark country road, seemingly having materialized out of nowhere. Offering him a ride, the family quickly comes to regret their act of generosity -- Brand, as the man calls himself, unnerves them all with his strange demeanor and stranger mutterings. When the high strung Megan can't stand it any longer, they literally eject him from their car. Shaken, they resume their trip, leaving Brand to fend for himself on the nearly deserted stretch of road.
In the days that follow, Brand infiltrates their minds and
lives, seeming to shadow their every move. Megan becomes convinced that Brand is spying on her through the eyes of insects and animals, Dan has an altercation with him in a local tavern, and Nikki spots him haunting a music studio where she and her band are making a recording. At first a minor irritation, Brand slowly ups the ante, sadistically torturing the unfortunate trio.
A supernatural take on John D. MacDonald's The Executioners, the well-executed Face chronicles the disintegration of a family under attack from within and without. Dan, Megan and Nikki have lots of emotional baggage, most of it originating in a rape Megan suffered six years before. Megan is paranoid, and has retreated into religion, Dan has been unmanned by his perceived inability to protect his wife. Estranged from each other, they are also losing touch with their daughter, who is dealing with her emerging sexuality. Seemingly peering into their souls, Brand exploits these weaknesses to wreak his revenge.
At first, it's hard to tell whether Brand actually exists,or is
something that the family has conjured out of its misery. In fact, until he acts against their friends and acquaintances, one might easily assume that he exists only in their imaginations. Regardless of his origins or corporeality, it's disquieting to watch his escalating attacks. It's also disquieting that Lebbon offers no easy explanations or outs. Asked "Why?" by Dan, Brand replies, "Sometimes bad things happen to good people." Even as Brand is seemingly dispatched, one senses he's merely stepped offstage, waiting for another opportunity to wreak havoc.
Intense and affecting, Face will seize and hold your attention from the opening paragraph to the end. A writer blessed with extraordinary gifts, Lebbon's chief talents lie in exploring the darker moments of everyday life, and in making readers feel his character's pain and despair. A true disciple of the dark, Lebbon's imagery wrings true fear from his audience.