I’d recently discovered Strand’s work when I read Pressure. It was the first time I’d read anything by him, and I enjoyed it so much that I knew I had to read more of his work. Whilst scrolling through his other titles, I happened to click on one that was titled Blister, only to find a notification telling me that I already own it.
‘I do?’ I thought. ‘Well, I know what I’m reading next then.’
And so it was that I began reading Blister, going in blind without looking at the synopsis because of how much I had enjoyed Strand’s previous work.
Blister tells the story of famous cartoonist Jason Tray, who manages to upset his agent after a prank involving some annoying kids and a fake chainsaw goes wrong. Still, it was worth it because those kids (and their mum) were dicks.
Anyway, Jason’s agent sends him away to a lakeside cabin for a break in the hopes that it will keep him away from the press and give him time to get his shit together.
During this time, Jason heads out to a local bar and meets up with a couple of yahoos, who invite him to meet the mysterious ‘Blister.’ Jason drunkenly agrees, not realising Blister is a girl who became disfigured after a particularly horrific act of violence. To borrow a line from South Park, she has a face that looks like someone tried to put out a forest fire using a screwdriver.
Upon seeing her mutilated features, Jason is repulsed, recoiling in horror and blurting frightened expletives.
After realising that what he did, was pretty damn insensitive, Jason decides to return to Blister’s home to apologise. But, he has to make it past her over-protective father first.
From then on - well, you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what happens.
I loved the story. There. I said it. It hooked me from the first page and didn’t let go until the very end. In fact, it carried on long after I finished it, as I found my thoughts returning to it again and again. It’s a simple premise turned into a compelling tale that, for me, was unputdownable. Reading it was the last thing I did before going to bed, and as soon as I awoke, I was reading again.
I am one of those people that reads three books at a time, but that didn't happen with Blister. I didn't put it down and wander into a different book; I just sat down and devoured it.
Strand weaves a natural level of humour into his stories, and it works into making his characters instantly likeable and identifiable. He did it with the condom stealing dare in Pressure, and again here in Blister with the introductory kid scaring. It’s a simple thing that does a wonderful task of introducing you to the characters. I was on Jason’s side as he sought his (hilarious) revenge on the neighbouring kids, and again as he realised that he had been an arsehole when he spied on ‘Blister.’
Pressure had already endeared me to Strand’s writing, but Blister has now solidified it and made me a fan. Not in the way Steve Stred is with Andrew Pyper - at least not yet - but I feel compelled to read more of Strand’s work.
Which does mean I have the compulsion to pick up his books as physical copies, rather than digital, and proudly display them on my shelf - well, cupboard, because I need new shelving, but you get the idea.
If I have only one complaint, then it is this:
Jeff Strand made me unwittingly read what amounts to a romance novel. Not only that, he made me enjoy a romance novel.
Romance isn’t my genre. I’m a short, grumpy bastard who stomps around full of wrath and hate. I’m, at my best, a mixture between Gimli from Lord of the Rings and an old testament God, and yet, there I was enjoying a horror novel that is secretly a romance title.
Well played Mr Strand.
Blister is a fast-paced read that I recommend to anyone who wants to read a simple horror tale that holds an entertaining romance story within its gruesome heart.
You can find Blister at Amazon UK
And at Amazon US