A young college student and his girlfriend must track down a psychotic serial killer.
Leo chose Epshire College for its lacrosse team, but in the summer between his junior and senior years, there are four axe murderers in town. Two seem to be one-time murderers – a professor’s wife killed her husband, and another killer took out a cocker spaniel named Duckpond. But the other two are serial killers, one stalking cheerleaders with an axe and the other hacking his female victims to pieces and hanging them from trees. Meanwhile, Leo’s recent ex-girlfriend Sophie has gone missing, and his new girlfriend Becky – Duckpond’s owner, and a friend of a couple of the human victims – is scared out of her mind. Can Leo and Becky track down the killers before they lose their lives along with their childhoods?
SEVER is a surprisingly wistful and tender story, for a horror novel. The book is in some ways a teen horror movie in book form – one of those movies where it’s never safe to split up and bloodshed waits around every corner – but there are some interesting twists to it as well. It combines an affectionate farewell to the relaxed, carefree days of college with the growing terror of a pair of brutal murderers on the loose. Ingwalson does a masterful job conveying the bittersweet beauty of the last year of college, before the responsibilities and worries of adulthood take over. Leo’s voice, which narrates the tale, is by turns wryly amused by his adolescent self and full of horrified grief over the events of the summer. SEVER could use a bit of expanding, though – the mystery aspect of the tale is not explored as deeply as perhaps it could be. Foreshadowing in some cases gives away perhaps too much of what’s going to happen next, although it is mostly artfully used to build tension.
SEVER is both a carefully-crafted paean to the sweetness of college life, and a nightmare-inducing horror story full of blood, murder, and fear. The combination is surprisingly effective.