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Book Review: Pay Phone by Brandon Ford

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It’s a cold winter in New York. The year is 1998, January is the month. You are on your way to work, bundled up against the wind in your thick jacket. You pass an unassuming phone booth. It rings. You stop and look around at the other people on the street who walk briskly to their destinations. They don’t seem to notice the ringing pay phone. You decide to answer, tell the person on the other line that they have a wrong number. It couldn’t hurt right? And, you’ll have an interesting story to tell your friends later.

You walk into the booth and pick up the pay phone. On the other end is a seductive voice. He is kind and thoughtful, never sparing with compliments and sweet words. He invites you up to his room which, to your surprise, is in the apartment building across the street on the third floor. The man seems nice enough, but what are his intentions for you when you get to his room? You’ll have to read Brandon Ford’s Pay Phone to find out.

The story centers on the character Jake, a murderous necrophiliac who lures his victims by calling the pay phone across the street constantly. He is driven by an unquenchable thirst for blood and the voice of a mysterious woman named Susan. This Susan isn’t in the flesh. She’s a voice in Jake’s head, a very persuasive voice. But, who is she? You’ll have to read Brandon Ford’s Pay Phone in order to find out.

The story also follows Chelsea, a young, aspiring actress simply trying to make it in New York. She answers Jake’s call one day, and is instantly drawn to him. He is so kind and caring. And Chelsea has been so lonely the past few months, dealing with her awful roommate and the menial theater production she has been cast in. Perhaps Jake is the man to deliver her from her misery. Jake also becomes attached to Chelsea. She looks just like Susan. Her voice, her smile, and the way she walks all echo Susan. Jake decides that he must have her. He won’t stop until he’s tracked her down. But, what will he do once he gets to her? You know what you must do in order to find out.

And, if you’re a horror and thriller/suspense lover, you won’t regret picking up Pay Phone. It’s similar to that 2002 movie Phone Booth, except amped up and taken to the next level. Furthermore, it is possibly the smoothest and most fun read you’ll have this summer. Is the writing impeccable? No. But what writer’s writing is? And furthermore, you won’t care. Because, Ford has perfected the art of showing the reader a story. Each sentence is packed with action and pushes the plot forward moment by moment, making you turn the pages for more. Ford does full justice to his material, and by the last page, leaves you with your mouth wide open. He is a writer you can trust. He tells you from the beginning what he is going to give you for the next 272 pages, and then he delivers.

Ford’s characterization is also great. It’s a huge feat to make a reader like, and even root for, a serial killer, but Ford somehow induces sympathy for Jake. Even as you are repulsed by Jake’s utter disregard for life and the horrible things he does, it is hard to not anticipate and read on to see what he’ll do next. Ford also does an excellent job with Chelsea’s character. She is so conflicted and lonely that you might find yourself wanting her to meet Jake. And their inevitable meeting keeps the pages turning.

Ford also delivers with the gore. You’ll be shocked by Jake’s actions. He has no limits and the blood flows freely as a result. Throughout the book he will kill many times, and you don’t want to even know how he disposes of the bodies. The gore might turn off some readers, but if you’re a true horror and suspense lover, then Pay Phone will be right up your alley.

So, are you intrigued? You should be. And, whether you like it or not, the pay phone is ringing. Answer at your own risk.

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About Jelani Sims