THE ROTTING WITHIN
By Matt Kurtz
Published by Grindhouse Press
Available December 2020
Book covers are important. They draw you toward a story before you even know what it is. The same goes for music. I fell in love with many bands as a teenager simply because their CD cover caught my interest. This crutch (I guess we’ll call it) has helped me find a bunch of authors I really love to read now. It sucks that bad covers with good stories are getting skipped, but that would be branching off from my point here. I’m starting with all of this because The Rotting Within has an awesome cover that made me want to read the book. Though I’d heard of Matt Kurtz before, I had not yet read him. The cover of his last book did nothing for me, and so I would shrug off the posts I saw promoting it. When you have SO MUCH reading material available to you, authors need to do something special to stand out. A cover can make or break a release. For The Rotting Within, I’m willing to bet it drew in a lot of new readers for Kurtz, which is great because he is a damn fine reader (as I’ve now discovered).
The Rotting Within has a familiar structure – a family gets stuck in a house during inclement weather and bad stuff happens – but horror tropes exist for a reason. Personally, I’m a fan of the “stuck due to weather” approach, even if it is done all the time in horror. In this particular case, there’s more to the formula, of course. Kenzie is a young mother with two children who has just got in touch with her long lost grandmother, a woman who owns a B&B hundreds of miles away. After reaching a breaking point with her abusive boyfriend, they flee to the B&B and put their trust in this stranger who shares blood with them. Things seem good enough in the beginning. They have a place to stay with someone you’d think you can trust. There’s shelter, food, and a source of income. Oh, and solitude! Kenzie doesn’t want to be found by her ex, and hopes that the location of the B&B will help hide them. You can probably guess that the pretty picture won’t last. What’s more to the mix is there are strange things that exist inside and outside the house. And it sure doesn’t help that the two permanent tenants upstairs seem to have secrets …
Though there were some weak spots, I had a lot of fun with The Rotting Within. The beginning reeled me in with ease, setting the stage for a good time. The locale was my cup of tea (I love secluded homes!). The suspense of the storm rolling in and the promise of danger riled me right back up again in time for the action packed finale. I even liked the ending, which was a gutpunch. Of course, there were also things that faltered for me along the way. This wouldn’t be a proper review if I didn’t mention them. My biggest complaint was I still had questions regarding certain things when the book came to an end. I also found Kenzie’s inner dialogue to be frustrating enough that I didn’t like her character (for reasons beyond her poor parenting and judgment). The funny thing is she thinks in the same way I do. I overkill stuff in my head also, which is what she does throughout this book. Turns out that this kind of inner dialogue is just as annoying on paper as it is to personally experience it.
Bottom line, Matt Kurtz has caught my attention with The Rotting Within. I want to read more of his work and I will read more of his work. If you’re looking for an exciting short novel to read over a stormy weekend, I know just the title to recommend!
Highlights: Exciting beginning and end … classic horror structure … well stocked with mystery, action, and tension
Shadows: Leaves some things unexplained … Kenzie’s inner dialogue comes like overkill
FFO: Stormy weekend reads … secluded locales and danger … horror that can be violent, but doesn’t come in too hot and heavy
Takeaway: The Rotting Within finds a great balance between light and hardcore readers of horror with its classic tropes and mystery. Kurtz is not only a fine writer, but one that seems to understand ways of getting inside your head to roost.
Would I read this author again? Yes
REVIEW BY AIDEN MERCHANT
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