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The author of this book, Kenneth W. Barber, was a classmate of mine at LaGrange High School in Georgia. Back then, we knew him as Kenny. He was a funny, all-around good guy who worked with me on the high school newspaper, The Granger Blues. So even back then he was interested in writing. None of us had any idea of the dark, fantastical images that were lurking inside his head, however.

Now we know. The Harrowing is an apt title this suspense thriller that contains many vivid moments of gut-wrenching gore and nightmarish violence. This is Kenneth’s first book, but he already displays a knack for the genre as well as an uncommon talent for scene-setting and description. When private investigator Zoe Flynn notices a distant, darkly cloaked figure everywhere she goes, you can envision the cruel, demented grin hidden just beneath the figure’s black hat. Here’s how the writer describes it:

Across the rain-shrouded street a figure stood, watching. It was impossible to determine if it was a man or a woman. The clothing was all black and the brim of a large, black fedora obscured the face. A long, black trench coat wrapped the stranger in a veil of indistinctness. The rain had slacked to a misting wall of moisture that danced with wisps of fog and obscured the mysterious face to a wraith-like state.

At 265 pages, Harrowing is a fast-paced, entertaining journey. I had a hard time putting the book down as I tried to figure out what kinds of creatures were tormenting poor Zoe and her family, and why they were doing it. The battle being waged over the detective has many unexpected turns and takes a deeper look at human existence and spirituality than many horror novels. I found The Harrowing to be an engaging, thought-provoking first novel by a promising author. I’m looking forward to Mr. Barber’s next book.