The second work from author Z. Rider that I have read, Insylum represents a significant improvement over her first published novel, Suckers. Unlike that novel, Insylum is fast-paced and delivers what it promises - whilst still consisting of well-written prose that brings its main characters to life.
Dealing with two long-time friends who decide to hit a touring haunted attraction on the last night before one of them ships out to Afghanistan, Rider wastes no time in setting up a strained dynamic between the young men. They are then quickly signed off and within the asylum themed attraction, only to discover the rumours about the place may not have been exaggerated...
The strongest scenes in Insylum are early on as Rider's protagonists quickly come across some nightmarish scenes, with one, the Cherry Bomb Babe, being an especially frightening creation. Another later scene depicts one of the characters restrained and having less than desirable things done to his person, and this also plays exceptionally well. In between however, some of the scenes become repetitive and a bit over-drawn, detracting from the intensity of the read (for me).
Rider writes Nate, the main character, from the first person perspective and A.J., his best friend, from the third person. This was at first jarring for me, but by the end of the short novel, I understood why she made the decision to present the novel in this way.
Perhaps my biggest issue with Insylum, then, was now predictable the ending was. Her choice to open the book in the way she does almost gives the game away before it has even started, and I was unable to forget the information implied in that scene as I read through the main narrative. Perhaps opening with the Nate and A.J. in line for the ride would have been the better way to go, as the novel's main strength comes from trying to decide whether the young men are the victims of a heinous crime or a just trapped in a very elaborate haunted attraction that is far more extreme than most. As such, whilst I enjoyed Insylum, my final grade reflects how much being fairly certain of what was happening robbed the book of much of its intensity.
For the record, I'll certainly be back for more from Z. Rider if she keeps releasing horror novels.
3 Jawless Pursuers for Insylum.
The preceding was based on a free copy of the book provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.