As a horror reader, it’s not uncommon for books to scare or disturb me. Rarely though, have books made me feel downright dirty. GONE TO SEE THE RIVERMAN by Kristopher Triana is a descent into the bowels of depravity and singlehandedly made me stop reviewing books by star ratings and instead by how badly they make me want to take a scalding shower.
Through an exchange of letters, downtrodden Lori establishes an unhealthy relationship with a brutal serial killer. Undeterred by his history, Lori is determined to prove her devotion and set herself apart from the other women writing to him. So when Edmund requests a favor, Lori rushes to help, heedless of what she may have to sacrifice in the process. What follows is a tragic tale of selfish desires and hidden secrets that are enough to sour any human heart.
Along with his sister Abby, Lori sets out to complete Edmund’s request to deliver a key from his cabin to someone known as the River Man. What starts out as a simple errand soon has Lori questioning how far she’s willing to push herself for a man she’s never met. As she confronts the harsh realities of what’s expected of her, we learn why Lori believes she’s the only one who’s capable of understanding such a sadistic killer. These dark, introspective moments not only chronicle Lori’s fall into full-blown obsession, but they also crack her open, slowly exposing long-buried secrets that begin to unravel the mystery behind her journey. With every new memory, you’re given insight into Lori, Abby, and their childhood that slowly curdles in your stomach, setting the rotten tone that follows you throughout the rest of the novel. Triana’s strength is compelling you to keep going, to sink deeper in darkness as you beg for a different outcome than the one you know is coming.
While Gone to See the River Man isn’t for the faint of heart, you won’t necessarily find the extremity that so often comes with splatterpunk. Even without overly relying on shocking images and gore, Triana creates an oppressively sinister atmosphere that sets your nerves on edge. Yes, bloody descriptions of defiled bodies will flip your stomach, but the true horror lies in the promise of what’s to come. The slow-burn terror of knowing something inescapable is waiting for you around the corner. But just like Lori and Abby floating down the river, you steadily push onward, quickly making your way towards an ending that will leave you feeling broken.