Author Matt Kurtz has a way of making his characters seem like real people. Their reactions to being scared, uncomfortable, stressed traumatized and healing are all so realistic and well done that there is genuine empathy and sympathy for the characters in his story. I really felt more attached to Kurtz’s characters than I expected. Usually I am sympathetic to people in stories, but I am also keenly aware that they are fictional characters…this was not the case in The Rotting Within. The characters in this story feel as through they went through actual trauma, not just clichés of reactions to trauma. Kurtz has explored realistic and heavy emotion that fades the suspension of disbelief.
As heavy and atmospherically terrifying this book is, it is a fast-paced, deep story. Kurtz takes some common tropes (“don’t go into that room”…and then they go into the room) but makes them work within the realism of what’s happening. Each event makes sense and the plot is gripping right from the first page. Dealing with fear, family, separation, abuse, and terror, Kurtz has found a way to not only have a horrifying tale, but one filled with love and tenderness and family. There is something beautiful in the story within the horror. The plot shows a mother’s love for her children and the bonding that comes through trial.
It tends to be harder to be legitimately scary in books than in movies movies (no accompanying haunting music, no jump scares, etc…) but when it works, it is powerful and tangible. It works in this novel. It is a clinic of multiple types of fear – gore, tension, emotional, life and death, suspense, action…Kurtz explores fear and entwines so many types of fear. This book is actually scary and appeals to people who like all different types of horror.
The Rotting Within is gripping from start to finish and keeps readers engaged with the tension. There is plenty of action and gore, but they are not used as cheap thrills, they are used to work within the plot. The writing and storytelling is griping enough that the mere story he has created holds focus.
As deep and entwined as the plot of this novel is, I did find that there were a couple of un-investigated plot lines that may have been fun to look at a little deeper. Definitely room within the plot (and with the length of the book) to make it a longer story.
When I finished The Rotting Within I realized that I had been tensing my jaw and my shoulders. I didn’t realize this until I released the tension. This book is powerful and there is something in it that appeals to everyone. Not simply a good horror novel, it is a good book…period. I have and will be recommending it to anyone I can. By it here and see for yourself!
Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) heads to a hotel in the remote village of Stainbach after her mother, flight attendant...