Stranglehold by Jack Ketchum Review

This a Jack Ketchum story and like all of his stuff, it is rough to read.


Stranglehold by Jack Ketchum, narrated by Chet Williamson
Horror Fiction
Released April 2011
Amazon | Goodreads | Better World Books 

Lydia McCloud meets Arthur Danse at a wedding party in Plymouth, N.H., and she thinks he's a man she could grow to love. Arthur sees things differently. In Lydia, he sees the sort of woman people always want to protect. He decides he's going to show her she wouldn't always be protected. Once their only child, Robert, is born, Arthur's behavior worsens. When the courts become involved, the nightmare really begins. This scathing novel is an indictment of a justice system that makes a mockery of its very name.

My Thoughts:

Ketchum throws you down into the muck that is the worst of humanity, pins you there and rubs your face in it. If you haven’t read him before you should know this before jumping in. Stranglehold takes an unflinching look at the kind of real life horror that occurs every day. The kind of horror that trickles down, creating a legacy of pain and torment.

Lydia meets Arthur and falls in love. He’s decent and kind and a respectable business owner. But Arthur is a good actor. He’s a sociopath who believes he’s been put on earth to make people realize the world is an ugly pain-filled place. He has done some terrible things in his past and though he fools Lydia for a while, he can’t hide his true self forever. After they have a baby they name Robert, the cracks begin to show and Arthur’s behavior becomes increasingly abusive towards Lydia. Lydia sticks it out until he crosses a line and she realizes she’s been living with a madman and files for divorce. She allows him visitation for Robert’s sake. He loves Robert and even after her own abuse at his hands, she believes he is a good father who would never hurt their son . . .

What happens next is just grueling but it wouldn’t be a Ketchum book if it was all unicorns and rainbows. The book follows Lydia through the injustices of the legal system. Lydia assumes she is doing the right thing by following all the rules but playing by the rules isn’t enough. A nasty, ugly and unfair trial begins. It’s infuriating and sad and the innocents, unfortunately, are the ones who suffer the most. It really makes you understand why some people take their kids and run.

I really felt for Lydia and Robert. Lydia’s own past was one filled with abuse and that was the last thing she wanted for her child. She feels guilty and bravely stands up to Arthur once she realizes what a deranged beast he truly is beneath the respectable façade. But sadly she is helpless once she enters the courtroom and has to depend on other people to do right by her.

This book is suspenseful but it will more than likely make you angry. It is also horribly grim and unpleasant but it’s one of those books that you have to see through to the end regardless of the fact that you know you’ll probably be sorry.

Narration Notes: Chet Williamson reads with an intense, serious tone well suited to the bleak material. I think he would do an amazing job with a gumshoe noir type of hero because he has that type of voice. He brings Arthur to life; his voice is menacing, mean and calculated and just what this piece demands. Much of this story is told from Lydia’s point of view, however, and I always think it strange when a male is chosen to read a female character. Williamson does a decent enough job with Lydia, forgoing the silly cringe-worthy falsetto that some male narrators use, but I would’ve preferred a woman to voice her thoughts, if I’m being completely honest. He’s not bad by any means but a woman (at least for Lydia’s parts) would’ve been a better choice. When it comes to Robert I have no complaints. He sounded like the confused, scared kid that he was supposed to be and the other male characters were easily discernible from one another.

Audiobook received for review for Audiobook Jukebox


Comments

  1. The first Ketchum book I read was Off Season and I loved it. Had a mixed time with the others but I did like Weed Species and The Woman.

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    Replies
    1. I have yet to read all of those! Have them, haven't read them :(

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  2. It's been forever since I read one of his books.

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    Replies
    1. They're always so painful. I have to dole them out slowly to myself.

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  3. This sounds like a tough read. All that injustice where Lydia is concerned.

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  4. This sounds very depressing. Not sure I'm ready to go there!

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    1. Yep, definitely depressing. I wouldn't do it again.

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  5. Great review. I don't think I've read any of his work. Have to check on that. I do like stories that deal with difficult topics.
    sherry @ fundinmental

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    1. Thanks Sherry. This is a tough one so be prepared :)

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  6. He does take you to dark places, doesn't he! I've read a bunch of his books. Most of them were great. A few weren't right fits for me. You have me very curious for this one.

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    1. Just prepare for a read that will make you very angry.

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