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2017 INDIES Finalist
A Debt of Survival
by L. F. Falconer
Shimji, a young Channel Island vixen, dreams to go where no Island fox has ever gone: to the place her ancestors came from thousands of years ago. By talking with a sea lion named Malibu and a seagull named Topanga, she finds the island’s harbor and stows away on a boat headed to the California coast. During her adventure on the main-land, Shimji befriends wild and domesticated animals. She learns from their different ways and thus gains knowledge of the world. Her curiosity satisfied, Shimji longs to return home, only to be discovered by humans. Scientists want to send her to a zoo. Can Shimji escape and find her way back to her island home?
* courtesy of Amazon.com
It’s true that the most terrifying horrors a human being can feel are in the mind and A Debt of Survival by L.F. Falconer aptly justifies this. The reader is introduced to a very compelling character, Don Lattimore, a man who had his stint in the army and who retired to a quiet life in Diablo Springs, serving his community as a sheriff. He thinks his past has been buried and that he has moved on, but when he discovers evidence of evil activities in an abandoned house, he knows it is the beginning of a terrifying journey for him as he begins to live his worst nightmares. Possessed by a powerful evil that causes the death of people in his county, the sheriff has to pay the impossible price if he’ll save lives. The question is: Does he have the courage to do what he needs to do to stop this evil from consuming everyone around him?
The pervading spookiness of this gripping horror tale starts from the very first page. The reader already knows that he or she is in for a dreadful ride the moment they read the first sentences of the story. The plot is beautifully imagined and the author’s writing flows flawlessly; it is measured and so tightly knit that the reader will be blown away by the lyricism in the prose. It is impossible not to feel deeply for Don Lattimore as he struggles helplessly against his own demons. A Debt of Survival is the kind of book that makes readers spend sleepless nights. The drama is intense and the reader can feel their pulse rise as they turn each page. L.F. Falconer is a master at creating a plot that leaves readers engrossed and transported.
– reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite
A Debt of Survival is an atmospheric novel and an engrossing entry in the horror genre.
A Debt of Survival by L. F. Falconer examines the price of war within an incredible character-driven supernatural horror ordeal.
In the idyllic town of Diablo Springs, Nevada, a gruesome crime takes a toll on Don Lattimore, the sheriff and an army veteran. The scene appears to be a satanic ritual to conjure a demon, but it is quickly written off as a harmless teenage prank—that is, until the town is rocked by mounting violence and grisly deaths.
For Lattimore, the deaths and gore usher in memories of his Korean War experiences and lead to vibrant hallucinations that threaten to unravel his sanity. Unsure who to trust, or even how to confront whatever force is wreaking havoc in his town, Lattimore comes to realize that everything is connected to the war and to himself.
A Debt of Survival is a polished horror story. The writing is sharp and adeptly shows instead of tells, such as when Lattimore is startled by an airplane-like noise and looks up at the moon; the sight causes him to reflect on Armstrong’s current lunar landing and a nightmare from his past. All in one line, the time frame is established and a sense of unease settles over the story. This all occurs outside of the horrific crime scene that has yet to be described, prompting the tension and fear to mount with each paragraph.
All the characters are vividly drawn to life, but none more so than Lattimore. Coping with PTSD and burdened by the duty to protect his family and community, his convictions keep his actions consistent.
Every piece of dialogue and action builds upon another to examine a man damaged by war while suffering from mounting horrors. Character tics like Lattimore’s tendency to quote his idolized father and favor his youngest son and dog over the rest of his family, as well as his discussions with exasperating colleagues, produce a protagonist worth rooting for.
As a horror story, A Debt of Survival excels. A strong and unique internal mythology draws from supernatural legends to add a layer of complexity to the story, which even so remains accessible. That same aspect of the story helps explain Lattimore’s personality and actions. From the intense descriptions of smell to the ramifications of the crimes on Lattimore’s mind and psyche, the horror is ever present.
A Debt of Survival is an atmospheric novel with undertones of social commentary; it is a unique and engrossing entry in the horror genre.
– reviewed by John M. Murray for Foreword Reviews
I love a gripping horror story, so when presented with the opportunity to read “A Debt of Survival,” by L.F. Falconer, I jumped on it! Falconer takes readers on a thrilling ride in this complex, multi-dimensional tale, full of heart-pounding suspense and drama.
Set in 1969, the story follows Don Lattimore, Sheriff of Diablo Springs, Nevada, who finds himself knee-deep in the middle of an investigation involving gruesome satanic activity. Quick to write it off as a prank of the local teenagers, Lattimore cannot ignore the onslaught of murder and destruction happening in his town ever since the “conjuring.” There is something familiar to Lattimore in all this mire, and suddenly the ghosts from his time in the war come back to haunt him with vengeance. As memories of the war come to the surface, Lattimore can’t help but wonder if he’s seeing things and losing his mind, or if the demons are real? When a stranger arrives in town offering assistance, Lattimore is torn –not sure who to trust, or what path to take. In the end, will he be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of his community?
“A Debt of Survival” was such an entertaining reading experience. The writing is impeccable, Falconer truly has a style all her own. She clearly knows how to show vs. tell–her descriptions drawing me directly into the plot with intensity and crisp detail. And, I do mean crisp detail – those with a tendency toward a weak stomach be warned – this author has no problem getting down and dirty with grisly particulars. The pace of the story is spot-on as well; I never felt like I was left hanging while waiting for something to happen, or driven through the story too quickly.
Another thing Falconer is right at home with is character development. Lattimore is a genuine protagonist who is well rounded with a diverse personality. He has no trouble being the bad guy when necessary if his convictions are tested, while at the same time being open-minded to learning new things and hearing all sides of a story. All of the characters are distinct, and readers will develop definite opinions about each one as the story progresses.
L.F. Falconer does an amazing job unfolding a clever, well-written story in “A Debt of Survival” with lots of layers, twists, and turns. Suspenseful, intriguing, and easy to follow, readers will be satisfied right up to the very last word. I rate this book an awesome Five-Star read and recommend to all horror fans and thrill seekers. You will not be disappointed.