Available for Pre-Order Twenty Years Dead by @RFarrenBarber from @crystallakepub #BookReview #Horror

Front cover for Twenty Years Dead by Richard Farren Barber. The cover is a night scene with a heavy wooden chair and straps in the middle

Twenty Years Dead by Richard Barber

Crystal Lake Publishing, ebook, £3.25

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

Front cover for Twenty Years Dead by Richard Farren Barber. The cover is a night scene with a heavy wooden chair and straps in the middle

The dead don’t stay buried forever. Twenty years exactly after someone dies, they claw out of their coffin to wreak havoc on their family one last time. Most people hire Family Directors, men and women who put the dead back underground, but David’s father died when he was five, and he wants to be there at his father’s. He wants to do this one thing for the father he never knew and get some closure. But everyone else thinks it’s a terrible idea; his mother, girlfriend, and especially the family directors are there for other clients. It won’t be the romantic reunion David believes it will be. It will be gruesome and unpleasant, and his father could attack him. But David has to try because he has so many questions that only his father can answer.

This story’s premise is an interesting one. Twenty years after you die, you come back and reveal whatever thoughts or secrets you died with. As most families don’t want to face their loved one after twenty years of decomposition, some businesses manage it for you. I enjoyed how the family directors are portrayed as an unnecessary service that has sprung up to take money from scared families. The first family director, Nathaniel, we meet is hanging around the graveyard at night scouting for business, and nothing David or his girlfriend, Helen, says distracts him from scaring them into hiring him. We feel that David is right in his belief that family directors are money-grabbing opportunists.

But then we meet Billy, another family director who respects David’s decision and does his best to prepare David for what is to come. Billy can’t take over David’s father’s rising, he has too many other jobs, but Billy can’t just leave David unprepared. While there are frauds, like Nathaniel, there are honourable people in the industry who do it out of respect for the dead. Barber guides us through the fantastical element of his book with excellent pacing and skill. It never felt rushed or confusing, and

Barber is a master at creating tension both in terms of horror and relationships. The story unfolds over the course of a single night, and the more David experiences, the more he is convinced dealing with his father himself is a terrible idea. But that just compels him further to see the night out regardless. And this creates friction between him and Helen, who tries many times to talk him out of it. However, David feels incomplete because his father abandoned him and his mother when David was five. David is trapped in a vicious circle of obligation and a need for closure. It is an understandable situation, and it kept me turning the page needing things to turn out for the best even though all the signs are pointing to the opposite.

Ultimately, Twenty Years Dead is a story about the things we don’t say. When the opportunity to say them has passed, the unspoken words can eat us alive, but sometimes the truth is best left alone. Barber delivers on the scares with a clean writing style and raw emotion. This is the first time I’ve read something by him, but it won’t be the last. Highly recommended.