Book Review - Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett
On the last round of Amazon Vine review items I could choose from, I picked up a number of recreational reads with the holidays coming up. One of the book was Mr. Shivers, a debut novel by Robert Jackson Bennett. The general premise sounded promising. During the Depression, a man leaves his wife to go search for the killer of his young daughter. He has to track down the man by following hints and rumors, riding trains and staying in hobo camps as he gets closer and closer to the killer. But the closer he gets, the more bizarre things seem to become. And it's there that the story went from pretty good to "huh?"
Connelly is the rail rider who is searching for the man with the scarred face, the one they call Mr. Shivers. Along the way, he finds others who are on the same quest, and he throws his lot in with them to have more numbers by which to deal out his revenge. They pin down Mr. Shivers in a ghost town where people have left to avoid an advancing dust storm. But before he walks off into the storm, Shivers takes another victim with him from the group. The search starts again after the storm, but now there seem to be more people fighting back, people who are somehow controlled by Shivers. But for some reason, Connelly and Shivers are linked and their lives are destined to meet in a final confrontation.
While Bennett was telling the story of Connelly hunting down Shivers, things stayed on track pretty well. But the dust storm episode seemed to be a turning point in style, and then a lot of time was spent in strange mystical ramblings and mental exploration. The story (for me, at least) started to get extremely muddled, and the ending didn't do much to resolve much of what went on before. I was definitely going to finish it at that point, but had it started out in that same fashion, I'm not sure I would have made it to page 50.
Mr. Shivers would have done well to stay on the action track and not devolve into the metaphysical realm. After getting into the book on the action premise, the switch felt like a major letdown.
Obtained From: Amazon Vine Review Program