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An honest look at how the systems in place can often let down victims. The book deals with themes some may find too much... But these cases do happen and I'm glad the author wasn't afraid to address them.
When I heard of Jack Ketchum's passing in January, I had never read any of his books. I immediately made to correct that oversight, and fell in love with his first novel, Off Season. I purchased this novel, expecting more of the grisly horror that made his debut so controversial, but this is a whole new level of horror. The monsters in this book are not a family of cannibals; this tale shows the true-life terror inflicted on children by their own parents. . When Lydia discovers that her husband had been abusing her son, she goes to the authorities and tries to have her husband kept away from their child. Ketchum brings up the gritty reality of the failure of the justice system, when her son is taken away from her and she feels helpless to protect her loved ones. This book had me running the gamut of emotions, from sorrow at the destruction of a young boy's innocence, to rage at the unfeeling judge who allowed the system to fail this child. . This was not your typical horror story, probably more of a psychological thriller, but Ketchum still mastered the characterizations and storyline, keeping the reader numb as they continued page by page until the heart-wrenching end. . My Rating: 4.75/5 stars
Stranglehold is a gritty, visceral novel that is totally Jack Ketchum. Ketchum pulls no punches in his fiction. His writing is not for the feint of heart, and this novel certainly fits that bill. In this novel Lydia McCloud marries Arthur Danse, thinking he is the man of her dreams. Things are good with them for a time, and they have a child. But Arthur is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. As time goes by, she starts to see just what kind of monster he is when she suspects that he is molesting their son.
One of the really hard things to get right in fiction is the villain. It’s rare to find a good villain, and most of them are these one dimensional cartoon characters that don’t resemble real people. But Ketchum succeeds with Arthur Danse, who is one of the most utterly vile and despicable characters I have ever encountered in a novel, yet at the same time he’s well-developed and multi-dimensional. In Ketchum’s fiction, the humans are the monsters, and you don’t get more monstrous than Danse. I found myself rooting for his demise and hoping that it would come in a terrible way. To get the reader to care about a character, whether positively or negatively, is a job well done by the author, and I salute the late, great Jack Ketchum.
I just finished reading Stranglehold by Jack Ketchum and I was absolutely floored by the strong writing, great plot, and Ketchum’s ability to just suck the reader into the world he created and have each chapter end with a feeling of dread and despair that forces the reader to read “just one more chapter” before they take a break.
Ketchum has created Arthur Danse, a true sociopath who likes to prove his superiority of everyone else in his world and actively seeks to bring people into his world just so he can prove to them that he is better than them. When he meets Lydia McCloud, a beautiful confident woman, he decides he must marry her, not because he loves her or needs her, but because he wants to prove to her she will not always be sheltered and protected.
After they are married, they have a child and that is when Arthur decides that he “owns” Lydia and he begins to ratchet up his controlling and dominating behaviors. He starts slowly and is soon attempting to control everything in his wife’s life and also his son’s life.
When Lydia begins to suspect Arthur’s dominating behavior has gone too far, she seeks to get her son and herself out of Arthur’s sphere of influence. Her only problem is Arthur is not going to let them go without a fight.
Ketchum mixes in some really great subplots and the way he allows Arthur to come to life on the page is a wonder to behold. I loved how Arthur was portrayed as a sociopath who only went further and further off the deep end as the novel unfolded.
This was an outstanding read and serves as my wakeup call that I need to be reading more Ketchum. Whether you are new to Ketchum or an avid fan of his, you will love this book. Grab a copy ASAP and get to reading this thrilling book.
I legitimately don't know what to say about Stranglehold, a profoundly effective and yet emotionally draining novel by Jack Ketchum. At its core, Stranglehold is the story of two people - one, a young girl who grows up in an abusive household; the other, a young man whose damage and violent tendencies mark him as someone to be watched - and how they eventually meet, fall in love, and then deal with the revelations about the true nature of the other person. Despite being categorized as "horror," Stranglehold is probably somewhere between a drama and a thriller, as the husband becomes more and more abusive and the wife attempts to save both herself and her son, only to find that the law isn't always on the side of the righteous. I can't deny that Stranglehold affected me; Ketchum writes complex, interesting characters, and the ideas he puts into play here - the flaws in the justice system, the impact parents can have on their children, the dangers of unchecked abuse - are compelling ones, and they're made all the more involving by the fact that Ketchum writes without pulling any punches from the horrors his book contains. But those same horrors make Stranglehold a bleak, rough read, one that I often couldn't read for too long simply because of how grim it all was - and that's saying a lot, given my usual reading proclivities. By the book's end, I found myself in a hopeless, haunted mood, and found myself needing something happier - time with my children, or even just some sunshine - as an antidote to the bleak, hopeless, devastating world that Ketchum creates here. Is Stranglehold a powerful, even effective drama/thriller? Undoubtedly. But it also drained me in a way few books have, and its unflinching look at domestic violence, cruelty, and horrific child abuse made it a book that got to be unpleasant to read, and one that I was fairly glad to be done with by the time it's done. A normal rating is hard to come up with for this one; all I can say is that it's a well-written, well-crafted piece of work, but not one I think I could ever make myself read again, nor one that I could see myself recommending to anyone very easily.
The other two books I read by him, off-season and the girl next door are horror classics. This one is even more plausible feeling than the later, which was based on a true story. This is gut-punch horror with one of the best portraits of evil that in horror fiction. Not for the faint of heart. Make sure your mind is in the right place, there is some real unpleasantness to be encountered in this book, and a pitch-black ending.
As a big Steven king fan I've come to love Jack Ketchum. I've read many horrors in all forms. I can say I've never found one that I could not finish and thoroughly enjoy. This book however is very disturbing to say the least. many times I thought I can't read any more, but it's such a well written story that you can't not either. It truly is a paige turner and inspite of the subject matter I would most definitely recommend this book. And when you think I can't read no more do yourself a favor and keep going.
Jack Ketchum's Stranglehold is horrific, to be sure, but more than that it's an open indictment of the American justice system. Part courtroom drama, part police procedural, part serial killer origin story, and part an examination of the dysfunction of one family, the narrative never quite comes together with any measure of satisfaction. Forget the numerous typographical errors. Forget the occasional point-of-view leaps between characters from one paragraph to the next. We know why you're here.
The depravity, in true Ketchum form, appears full-force but (also in Ketchum form) much of it is gratuitous, graphic, and exploitative. The author has built a following on such cornerstones, so I'm not using these to detract from the book. The many inconsistencies and plot holes (not to mention contrived plot devices) do so just as well. Consider the passage in which our protagonist calls 911 nearly hysterical because her son is in mortal danger and the operator proceeds to argue with her as to why police assistance cannot be dispatched immediately. It would never happen. Another theme Ketchum uses to his detriment are apologists for characters. All the characters who CAN help the protag and her son simply cannot seem to get their acts together and all seem to say "Hey, we're sorry, but our hands our tied. We can't do anything." Unacceptable, even when skewering the justice system. If that's your mission, you must undertake it believably and, sadly, Mr. Ketchum failed to do so in this case.
KETCHUM is one of the most underrated authors out there. He does it again with another great novel in STRANGLEHOLD. Very fast paced read, hard to put down. One of the reasons I love Ketchum's work so much is that it is believable, scary thing happen to regular people without the supernatural asspects of most horror authors. (except in his novel SHE WAKES which is my least fav book of his). Stranglehold is a novel of suspense, horror and retribution. Thank you kindle for releasing this hard to find gem. If new to Ketchum I recommend first reading THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, it will change your life and you will be a Ketchum fan too, that is if you can get through it.