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3.3 out of 5 stars16
3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 12 October 2010
The last time I read a book by Shaun Hutson I was eighteen years old. The book was called Victims, and I remember that at the time I loved it. It was gory and brutal, but thoroughly entertaining. Of course I was eighteen, and a lot of things we like in our teens, make us wince when revisited in later years. Would Hutson's morbid pessimism, and brutal no-nonsense style, still have anything to offer me? Honestly, I had my doubts that it would. To an extent these doubts have turned out to be valid, but not as completely as I suspected.

Epitaph is still very clearly the work of the same writer I remember from my days of feasting on Literary Horror's 1980's excesses. It's stark, grim and very fast paced. In fact this story of grief, despair and retribution is really easy to read. Not comfortable to read, or even necessarily entertaining, but the chapters are short, and the writing to the point. As I remembered, there's nothing verbose about Hutson's writing style, that's for sure.

The first character we are introduced to - in what we soon learn is a past narrative - is Laura Hackett, an 8 year old school girl, who we know is going to die, because of the jacket blurb. Then we meet a chap called Paul Crane, just as he's been informed he's lost his job in an advertising agency. Finally we are introduced to the parents of Laura Hackett, Frank and Gina, and we are quickly made aware that Gina is cheating on her hardworking, but poorly paid husband. These four characters, basically make up the whole cast. For part of the book, I was left wondering what connected the Hacketts to Paul. Then when Paul wakes up - after a night of drinking away his woes - trapped in a coffin, and we learn that Gina and Frank Hackett have placed him there, thinking he murdered their daughter, I began to get a sense of where it was going.

The story that unfolds is really depressing. It deals with a very unpleasant subject matter, namely, child abuse, and the desire for revenge from a family torn apart by devestating loss. Paul's story is also depressing. What depressed me more, however, is that it uses its themes in a way that I found almost voyeuristic. That is to say, there is a sense of entertainment being derived from the fact that the lives of each of the characters is truly screwed up. The book feeds off human misery, and revels in it. What it doesn't do is offer any insight or humanity in the face of darkness. It's just entertainment based on misery, despair and human failing. I'm not suggesting it should have some uplifting Disney ending, but some discernible meaning behind the narrative other than, life is really terrible and people do messed up things, might have made for a more substantive tale. Without giving anything away, the ending didn't really conclude in a way I found entirely satisfying either.

Despite these gripes, I read this really quickly, and I was hooked for part of it. So I cannot say it's a terrible book. It's rather like a Torture Porn Horror Film. As you watch it, you're gripped by the desire to see if anyone escapes. Knowing it unlikely, you wonder what horror the next victim will suffer. You know the story doesn't really have much substance. You know there are better films you could choose to watch. At the end you leave feeling a little bit grubbier for the experience, but when the next one comes around, there's a chance you'll go through it all again.
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on 5 September 2012
It began like vintage Shaun Hutson and I was quickly turning pages eager to find out what happened next.
Unfortunately the initial spark began to flicker and before the book reached a climax the flame was extinguished and I was left to merely turn pages to reach a conclusion that I had long ago guessed at.
If you haven't read Shaun before it is not a bad read and should whet your appetite for his older much better books. Compared to his earlier books such as Assassin this book would come in as PG
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Shaun borrows heavily from films such as Last House on the Left as the parents of a murdered child seek vengeance upon the perpetrator. However whilst this sounds pretty descent the major problem with the title is that the reader will more than likely latch onto the twist a lot earlier than the author intended which, to be honest, really lets it down. This eventually leads to a damp fizz of a conclusion, which really left me feeling that I had wasted my time. Parts were a tad graphic with Shaun trying to shock the reader but unfortunately Shaun is showing his age as a writer and with adding parts that really weren't required or in character left me feeling it was more about satisfying his own expectations rather than listening to the players of the tale.

Overall, it is OK, it is readable but personally I'd recommend picking this up as a paperback as you will save a few quid.
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on 3 July 2014
Having been a fan of Shaun Hutson's previous books from years ago I looked forward to reading this book, unfortunately I was most disappointed and whilst I know horror is meant to scare you I found this book quite shocking.

Without revealing the plot to any potential readers I found the level of details describing some incidents as nothing more than SICK and made me question what goes through an author's head when they write this.

Will probably never read a book of his again and I can see why his popularity has diminished over the years now.

Horror books for me are to entertain and shock you but this has just left me shocked and bewildered that this even got published.

I'm surprised the other reviews of this book are not of the same nature as mine and I would gladly give this negative stars if I could......................
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on 17 November 2010
I started reading, and enjoying Shaun Hutson's books right from the unforgettable "Slugs", through the superb "Sean Doyle" novels, and upto five or six years ago, could really recommend his books - especially if your enjoyed readable, horror-thrillers !

Every year (until 2010) I would eagerly anticipate the August/September release of his one and only new book every year. In 2010, for the first year ever, I didn't buy on the release date. I chose to buy from Apple's BookStore in e-format, so I could read it on my iPad.

Sadly, my fears were confirmed - disappointing to say the least, very strung-out story, as another reviewer said, "should have been a short story, not a full novel".

I have to say, for the first time ever, the only SH novel that I could quite easily put down before reaching the end.

Don't know how much he got paid for it, but wish my 10.99 had stayed in my pocket.

Let's hope 2011's effort will be back to his old winning style....
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on 21 July 2011
This book seems different from Hutson's earlier stories, even down to the lack of rambling dedication and "Let's Go!" which always came just before the story started.

It is far too drawn out and slow, and the ending seems pointless after having waded through the whole book.

It's not that the idea is poor, or even the characters, I just don't think there is enough of a story to make it worthwhile.

Incidentally, the treatment of the identity of the actual killer seems a major loose end, as if the writer forgot about it?

The writer may be trying to change style, or has a very different editor?

Not a success.
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on 20 October 2010
Absolute rubbish.

The last couple of Shaun Hutson's books have been poor, so much so that I said that I wouldn't buy another. However I fell for it and gave the guy another chance, desperately hoping that he would be back on track. Wrong, this one reaches new lows, it is truly dire.

Don't expect anything to happen until the last few pages. That's right, NOTHING happens until the very end, an ending that was entirely predictable from half-way through.

Yet again we have short chapters, large font size and plenty of page space to pad out what should have been a short story on his website into a novel.

Do yourself a favour, borrow it from a library.
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on 1 April 2013
Took this book and 2 other Shaun Hutson books on holiday. The only downside is they only lasted me 4 evenings, couldn't put either book down. Brilliant as usual
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on 7 February 2015
Entertaining but quite a few holes in the plot. I did enjoy it though. :-)
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on 30 July 2011
Although the table of contents shows you there are eighty chapters to this book,they are very short and overall this is quite a short story, i read it in one and two hour stints and finished it within a week,having said that; it is quite intense and fast moving and with a little twist at the end which i did not expect.I did enjoy this very much and rated it four stars only because of the short story-ness if it. A quick summary of the story is that a young child is taken and killed[not too much detail told here after the initial abduction but a paragraph or two to stimulate your imagination], this runs parallel with another character who is involved in a different way with the parents of the dead girl.You dont know who the killer is and to my mind its quite irrelevant to the story. I am an avid reader of anything Shaun Hutson writes and am just feeling a little bit let down as the plot of this book was good i cant help thinking there could have been more, but even so this is a very good read, once started i didnt want to put it down, the author has done an excellent job at keeping the reader wanting more. This is a great book.
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