THE SECRET LIFE OF MY IMAGINARY FRIEND by Andrew Lennon and Stephen White
self-published | 2018 | Kindle edition | 19 pages
Officer Norman was only a teenager when his quiet neighbourhood fell victim to a brutal serial killer’s bloody games. Too young to help, but not too young to feel helpless. Now, twenty five years later, as he patrols his beat, he can’t help but wonder about the killer. A killer who is still out there, somewhere. Haunting memories of a case never to be solved… or is it?
White and Lennon bring you this short horror story that is packed with brutal murders in every second breath.
As standalone short stories go, this is one that pleases and frustrates in equal measure.
It’s a standard tale – small-town cop finds himself mulling over a string of murders that took place in his hometown, years before he joined the force. We’re taken along for the ride and expected to spot who among the small number of characters present to us is the likely killer.
In that sense, it works well. I like to think I’ve got a good eye for a plot twist, but Lennon and White kept me guessing right to the end. Perhaps I should say that Lennon and White had me smugly thinking I’d guessed both the killer and how he was going to be revealed on two separate occasions, only to have my conclusions dashed in the final couple of pages, which is closer to the truth.
There are some negative points. Our narrator is reminiscing on murders that took place a quarter of a century ago, back when he was a teenager. The constant flipping between present day and 25 years past is akin to literary whiplash and starts to get tiring once we hit double figures.
Linked to this is the fact that eleven murders is just too much to fit into a book that doesn’t hit twenty pages in length. Instead of the slow escalation of horror as each new atrocity is revealed, you end up shrugging and moving on, as only the most salient points are brought up.
It’s a shame. The structure is excellent, and would have worked just as well with only a handful of deaths (though my own preference would have been for a novel-length investigation into the murders, but keeping the same reveal).
That said, it’s an entertaining way to pass half an hour, and well recommended to anybody who likes their mysteries with a bit of grit.