Blake is a rich man with a wife and teenage son. Things look perfect on the outside and he thinks they are about to get better when he moves across the country to a new home in a gated community in California. After they settle into their new home a strange person comes to their door selling magazines, Blake refuses to buy and sets off a chain reaction of events. Now Blake and his family are at the mercy of two sociopath kidnappers.
These kidnappers don’t want money though or to torture them. What they want is to observe Blake and his family for one week to see how they became so successful. There is a catch, though if you break one of their rules the kidnappers have promised to torture them and they have proof to show how vicious they can be. Blake is caught in a game of survival his perfect life starts to erode and he has to reevaluate what is most important.
I loved the concept behind Housebroken by The Berg. You can tell that the kidnappers come from a rough background and the idea that they just wanted to see what made these rich people different is an intriguing idea. After awhile you start to see that Blake’s life isn’t as perfect as it looks and it doesn’t take a lot to make everything come undone. What I liked best about this book is that all the characters were shades of gray. There were times that the kidnappers came across like they weren’t bad people and you could have sympathy for them and there were times when Blake’s family showed that each one had a dark side. I cared about all of these characters to an extent and in the beginning, I even liked the kidnappers and could understand their point of view, though the story gets more complex as it moves along.
As much as I loved the characters though there were also scenes in this book that came across as so ridiculous that I almost wanted to stop reading. I don’t want to give anything away but at one point there was a scene with a car and also by their pool where I was asking how was that even possible and then there was an escape attempt where I was just scratching my head in confusion. There was also a scene with a doctor that I thought wasn’t necessary at all.
Despite its flaws I did enjoy this book, there are some well-written scenes and I loved the depth given to the characters and how their feelings are described. The best part of this book though is how you feel for the family. At first, they come across as a normal slightly dysfunctional family, then it gets revealed that they may be even worse than the reader thought. You still care for them though because you see how despite their conflicts they are still counting on each other to survive. Housebroken is a page turner and even though the story has its problems, it’s still good enough where I was wondering what else has this author written.
Night As A Catalyst by Chad Lutzke is a collection of 18 horror stories that are short but pack a punch. Most of these stories would be considered flash fiction and while I admit to not liking short horror stories a lot, I thought the atmosphere in these stories was really good. Another thing I liked was at the end of each story Chad Lutzke tells where he got the idea from, which made each story more personal.
One of the stories in this book that I really liked was One Up A Tree. It’s about two hikers lost in the woods that come upon a cabin. When the owner comes home and finds the two people, he shoots first and doesn’t ask questions. One gets away but is soon trapped by the sadistic cabin owner. For such a short story I was surprised at the depth of the characters here. In the beginning, we find out that the two hikers are friends that drifted apart over the years and are trying to rekindle their friendship. Being able to relate to them makes it that much scarier when they meet the cabin owner. There is a scene in One Up A Tree where the cabin owner gives one of the hikers some meat. I knew where the scene was going when the hiker starts to eat but it was still terrifying to think about.
A good flash fiction piece here if you are a cat lover is Collecting Cats. It’s about someone who finds injured cats and nurses them back to health. What makes this story interesting is how the cats react when they find out about the one injuring them. This book has a lot of good short ideas and another story that follows this formula is Moving Made Easy which is a story about teleportation. This one has a really good Twilight Zone ending.
My favorite story here is Birthday Suit. It follows a group of friends who are at a house for a birthday slumber party, they go up into a tree house and one of the kids sees something amazing and horrifying. This one mixes nostalgia and horror. In particular, I liked the conversation the kids have in the tree house as they look into other people’s homes. They talk about things like what old people do all day, girls at school and of course horror movies. This one reminded me of sleepovers I had as a kid and the shock ending made it a great tale.
Night As A Catalyst is a perfect book for horror fans who like to read but don’t have a lot of time. I say that because each story here is quick, to the point and packs a good scare. As a fan of the genre what more could you ask for, this book is a lot of fun and a quick read. If you like horror anthologies then Chad Lutzke’s book is one you shouldn’t pass on.