Book Review: Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Horror

Series: Book 2 of The Lake Witch trilogy

Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press (February 7, 2023)

Length: 464 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

You’ve got to hand it to Stephen Graham Jones. Returning to The Lake Witch trilogy with Don’t Fear the Reaper—which, amazingly, is even more of a love letter to the slasher horror film genre than its predecessor, My Heart is A Chainsaw—this sequel is sure to delight fans by offering a bigger, better, twistier take on final girls, slasher flicks, and the power of self-determination.

Once obsessed with random horror movie facts and trivia, Jade Daniels is a little less enthusiastic about the topic these days. After all, the trauma of having to live through a real-life slasher attack on you and your town can have a way of changing your perspective. Going by Jennifer in this novel, our protagonist has returned to Proofrock, Idaho, four years after the bloody Independence Day Massacre that shocked a nation. Now both she and the town are trying to heal from the tragedies and horrors of that day by moving on and putting the past behind them.

But for Jennifer, that’s easier said than done, especially when a bad storm blows in for the holidays, and a convicted killer escapes his convoy into the wilderness around Proofrock. The crimes of Dark Mill South have become legendary at this point, as he has left close to three dozen bodies in his wake, all murdered in the most gruesome ways. Thanks to the incentives the town has put forth to rebuild itself, Proofrock has seen an influx of new residents in recent years, particularly families with high schoolers who have come to take advantage of free college, meaning more hapless victims for Dark Mill South to prey on. Jennifer, who thought she’d left her obsession far behind her, is once more called upon to save the town by diving into her vast repository of horror film knowledge.

Don’t Fear the Reaper is a special novel that somehow walks that fine balance between paying homage to the slasher flick genre without being too over-the-top. It also remains true to the tone of the first book while feeling more sophisticated and self-possessed. For instance, very much in keeping with the spirit of a slasher sequel, Jade-now-Jennifer returns older and wiser but also more cynical. All the police scrutiny and the media attention surrounding her case over the last few years have changed her, disenchanting her to the horror movies once gave her such joy. Recalling the way she was in My Heart is a Chainsaw, I couldn’t help but feel for Jennifer. Name change notwithstanding, she doesn’t have the choice to just walk away from her past. And yet, despite how much her personality has been transformed, I still felt a deep attachment to her character.

But one area I felt was greatly improved from the first book was the plot as well as its pacing. Plus, can we please just take a moment and talk about Dark Mill South, the serial killer in this story who is more monster than man, complete with a hulking frame and a hook for a hand? Everything about him, from his physical description to his brutal backstory, is designed to evoke the kind of sheer terror we get from our favorite horror movies. The deaths are a compelling mix of frights and gore, a nod to the classic slashers that inspired them, but at the same time featuring enough innovation to make this novel profoundly unique. Even when homage edges closer into parody, the tongue-in-cheek jokes are done in moderation and we’re not going overboard with pop culture references.

All told, I found Don’t Fear the Reaper incredibly entertaining, just the right amount of chills and thrills. Did you enjoy My Heart is a Chainsaw? Are you a fan of Stephen Graham Jones? Do you love horror movies and cheering on the final girl? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you certainly won’t want to miss this!

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of My Heart is a Chainsaw (Book 1)

13 Comments on “Book Review: Don’t Fear the Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones”

  1. I still haven’t tried anything by the author, but have been wanting to for some time. Glad to hear this second book in the series is just as strong, if not more so, than the first.


  2. Pingback: Bookshelf Roundup 02/12/23: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  3. Pingback: Don’t Fear the Reaper reviews, lists, tweets . . . – Stephen Graham Jones

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