Hey! Welcome to Thrift Store Finds, a series of digital reviews of analogue books from the heyday of horror paperbacks. I promise this won’t be true of all my reviews, but this one comes with a PG-13 content warning as there is some weird sex that I absolutely couldn’t skip over — you’ll understand what I mean.
There is a lot going on in a book. You have to have a plot, you have to develop characters, you have to describe the settings, all while keeping the story interesting. It’s no small potatoes.
Humans are pretty good at digesting these massive amounts of information, which is why the novel has continued to be a popular form of entertainment no matter how many clickbait articles say otherwise.
But even so, have you ever been stunned by the sheer amount of story in a book? Like that moment when you go to tell someone about what you just read and you realize you don’t even know where to start?
If you’ve ever been in that predicament, then you totally feel for me and the incredible feat I’m going to attempt to pull off with this review.
So let’s get to it! No time like the present! Everyone do a couple of lunges cause this is gonna take some heavy lifting.
On your mark. Get set. Go.
Our story begins on Ben Quadrum’s first day at his new job. He’s a young (22!), metropolitan (from New York!), and looking for something new and exciting. What is a handsome, bearded man who carries a tobacco pouch to do? Why, move to Arizona and become a reporter for The Tuscan Sun, of course.
Just as Ben’s preparing to learn the ropes at his new gig, a body is found in the desert. For some reason his editor thinks it would be a good idea for him to go check it out, so it’s off to the desert.
As Ben and his coworker drive past “spry” cacti and mountains as “gentle as sleeping lizards,” Ben gets the details on the serial killer plaguing Tucson. This maniac has killed 15 women. And yet, killed would be an understatement; these women were maimed, ripped, and torn before having their dominant hand dismembered and being left in the desert to rot.
Meanwhile . . .
Carolyn Bergeron has found her prey in the local grocery store. The small woman with black hair will never suspect her fate, just like the fifteen victims before. After staging a quick meet-cute with the woman, Carolyn knocks her out and drives to desert to kill her in a shockingly brutal scene. And while “shockingly brutal” probably means different things to everyone, I think we can all agree Carolyn removing the dead woman’s tooth and sucking on it like a mint, is, well, shockingly brutal.
The whole sequence is made the weirder thanks to the writer’s unique word choices. While Carolyn stalks the woman through the grocery store, Hall tells us, “she feels excited, luxuriant, even a bit gleeful, as if she suddenly had discovered a previously innate ability to juggle.” Or while looking for the perfect kill spot Carolyn’s “mind’s tongue licks around the corners of it.”
I’m not even sure what that means.
It should also be noted that Hall goes out of his way to say that Carolyn might be psychic, but then it kind of disappears. I only bring it up now because — guess what — it’s gonna come back later!
Things finally start to move when Carolyn meets Ben to help with her uncle’s obituary. Ben’s immediately interested in her “efficient” nature and suggests he write a piece about her art.
Please insert smirking emoji here.
But first he has to go to a party. While everyone does cocaine like that’s totally normal at a work event, Ben’s pretty coworker Nita advances the plot harshes everyone’s buzz by telling them about her friend who was a victim of the serial killer. The two girls were inseparable and even got matching class rings.
Ben goes back to Nita’s place and has sex in a manner that’s a frightening as any horror scene in the book. The sweaty and earthy couple “slide around the un-air-conditioned room.” When Ben goes down on her, he’s able to find “her clit quicker than he’d ever found anyone’s.” And when he touches “it with his lips,” she wraps herself around him like “ecstatic moss.”
Different strokes truly are for different folks, and Ben and Nita start dating. Everything’s looking pretty keen, until Nita goes out of town and Carolyn invites Ben for tea . . .
Of course, we all know “tea” means “weird sex with a serial killer,” but Ben doesn’t so he says yes.
After a quick “how do you do,” Carolyn tells Ben to take off his clothes, and even though we’ve barely gotten a hint he’s attracted to her, he does it. She sits him in a chair and rubs him until he’s so aroused that when she stops for a moment his penis, ahem, “jittered and skidded like a carriage horse amok on cobblestones.”
The next morning Ben steals his bylines from work and gives them to Carolyn who burns them up in a sterno fire in her basement while Ben sits naked and tied up. After which she blindfolds him and draws on his leg with ballpoint pen (???) while Ben writhes in sexual ecstagony(™). Eventually she wants to tattoo him with this design for reasons potentially related to her being evil.
Are you still with me? Let’s kick it into overdrive, cause it’s time for THE GRAND FINALE.
Ben goes home and feels terrible about all this sex, so he tells Nita and says he’s sorry. She’s all, “well that’s lame,” and leaves. Alone and sad, Ben realizes that Carolyn must be the killer because she chews on pen caps and a chewed pen cap was at one of the crime scenes (emoji shrug).
Nita, who somehow figured out Carolyn was the murderer as well, gets caught breaking into Carolyn’s house and gets a crossbow to the legs for her troubles before being absconded to the desert by Carolyn.
The whole thing ends with a showdown in the desert. Ben fights to save Nita while Carolyn fights to kill Ben because she’s never killed a man before (???). Just when all seems lost, Nita finds the strength to use the crossbow to kill Carolyn and end this nightmare forever.
We made it. I’m proud of us.
Equal parts brutal horror and literary wanderiness, NIGHTMARE LOGIC is a fun ride filled with outrageous relationships, hard-hitting kills, and some of the most unique descriptions I’ve seen yet.
If you come across its striking cover of a redheaded-woman clutching a knife in her skeletal hand, I recommend you pick it up.