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Valentine by Tom Savage
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Cliffhanger Press Kindle Edition  ISBN/ITEM#: B00H5AG6GU
Date: 06 December 2013

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Jill Talbot has achieved her dream. She's a best-selling mystery author living in Greenwich Village, surrounded by beautiful friends and a loving boyfriend, Nate Levin, who's an artist. As Valentine's Day fast approaches, she learns that someone from her past is stalking her, seeking vengeance for a childish prank that was played on him during college. He is watching her every move and listening to her every word. He kills anyone who might prevent him from making Jill his bloody valentine.

Tom Savage published Valentine at the pinnacle of his writing career; the only one of his novels made into a film, it was his crowning achievement. I've read several of his novels and Valentine was my favorite. I saw the horror film, Valentine, which I enjoyed tremendously and it compelled me to read the novel. Both are similar in plot but there are vast differences. Valentine is pure slasher fare that is targeted towards teens and those in their twenties. The novel was intended for more mature readers in their thirties and beyond. The film belongs in the genre of horror films involving vicious, childish pranks that go horribly awry, leading to permanent injuries or deaths; it had a plot similar to classic horror films of the early eighties such as Prom Night, The Burning and Terror Train. The last one, as in the case of Valentine the novel, involves a vicious college prank that mentally scars a student who returns years later wearing a disguise and seeking bloody vengeance.

With its fast pacing, gruesome murders and high body count, Valentine was perfect for turning into a high-budget horror film. My favorite horror films are the ones set during the holidays, especially Christmas when it is snowing. The primary locale for Valentine is the Big Apple in February when it is very cold and the snow is always falling. The author also takes us to glamorous ski resorts, small exclusive colleges and isolated cabins, where there is also a lot of snow, and blood.

Cruel women who are rich and spoiled are systematically slaughtered by a clever, chameleon-like killer who has serious anger issues. The killer is the male version of Theresa Russell's character, Catharine Peterson, in The Black Widow. He is the male fatale who uses his handsome face, muscular body and artistic talents to woo and seduce unsuspecting women before dispatching them. He will also butcher anyone who gets in his way.

I am very glad to see that there has been a resurgence in the popularity of Tom Savage's mysteries. Last year, most of them were made available in Kindle editions. I had already read his debut Precipice and Scavenger when I decided to read Valentine. I also bought a signed, hardback copy for my girlfriend, Tammy, for Valentine's Day; she, like me, craves a good mystery. Together, Tammy and I read Valentine. She also enjoyed this novel. In fact, she was late for a date with me because she couldn't put it down. The ending shocked both of us. Tammy kept working herself into a tizzy about the killer's identity and she was distraught about the death of one of the victims whom she liked. Having been to New York City, she appreciated the setting. I relished the high body count. It seemed that each of the characters was a potential victim.

The heroine is the likable, winsome, naive Jill Talbot who made a poor error in judgment in college. Lonely and desperate for companionship, she fell into the wrong crowd, which consisted of three snooty, beautiful rich girls who were extremely popular on the campus of Vermont's Hartley College. Together, they were known as the Elements and Jill became the fourth element, Water. She played a small but significant role in the prank that they played on a shy, abused misfit. However, she later repented and tried to make amends but it was too late.

Of the four girls, the misfit hated Jill the most, because he was the most attracted to her. The fact that she became a best-selling author, which is as rare as winning the lottery, probably created tremendous jealously. The reader can't help but feel sorrow for the misfit when they learn about him being abused as a child. Honestly, I never experienced pity for the first three women he killed; I felt they deserved it for being unmercifully cruel. The ring leader, Sharon Williams, was notoriously wicked.

Tom Savage's Valentine is highly recommended for both fans of mystery and horror. Intended to be a mystery novel, it has morphed into one of horror, especially after being made into a popular film--a bloody treat--starring an incredible cast of young stars such as David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, Katherine Heigle, and Marley Shelton.

After the success of Valentine, one can only hope that Savage's next novel, A Penny for the Hangman, is also a mixture of mystery and horror. According to his website, it is slated for publication in 2014 by Random House/Alibi. After over a decade of not hearing from Savage, I am glad that he is finally publishing novels again.

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