A couple of months back, I wandered the halls of the For The Love Of Horror convention in Manchester. As I nosed through trade stalls looking for things to blow my hard earned money on, my wife and I struck up a conversation with an author who happened to be in attendance to promote her work. There was nothing unusual about this as most of the enjoyment of convention attending, for me, personally, is getting to meet and chat with people. Especially those who are there to peddle the fruits of their labour. What made this passing unusual is that the author in question originated from the same, backwater, arse end of nowhere town that I reside in. She, however, escaped the evil clutches of Hicksville. I remain trapped in its event horizon, forever being crushed and spaghettified as it collapses in on itself like a dying star.
I fully intended to return later in the day and pick up one of her books as I like to do my bit to support up-and-coming authors. I failed, however, as a fool and his money are soon parted, and I blew the lot on t-shirts and collectable figurines. Pretty standard occurrence on my part.
The author I refer to is Gemma Amor, and the book I took an interest in was Dear Laura. I later redeemed myself and bought a copy from Amazon, and I’m very glad I did.
Let me start by giving you the gist of the story:
Every year, on her birthday, Laura gets a letter from a stranger. That stranger claims to know the whereabouts of her missing friend Bobby, but there’s a catch: he’ll only tell her what he knows in exchange for something...personal.So begins Laura’s sordid relationship with her new penpal, built on a foundation of quid pro quo. Her quest for closure will push her to bizarre acts of humiliation and harm, yet no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape her correspondent’s demands. The letters keep coming, and as time passes, they have a profound effect on Laura.From the author of Cruel Works of Nature comes a dark and twisted tale about obsession, guilt, and how far a person will go to put her ghosts to bed.
From the opening chapter to its conclusion, Dear Laura moves at a lightening pace. At 118 pages, the narrative employs a present setting and flashback style spanning decades of Laura’s life. No event is lingered over for very long before leaping forward to another time in Laura’s life. This is by no means a criticism. The pacing allows us to grow with Laura from adolescence to maturity and
works wonderfully at helping the reader understand how the events that unfold over the years of her life contribute to her state of mind.
What really struck me was how relevant the story is regarding today’s recognition and empathy towards the MeToo movement and empowering those who have suffered at the hands of abusers. Laura is a victim of control. X craves that control over her and control is what abuse is really all about. As Laura grows, she realises that she needs to act to take that control back, and she begins to find the strength required to do this. While X doesn’t out-and-out sexually abuse Laura, the principle of his game is the same. This is what I took away from the story and whether that was the author's intention or simply my interpretation, I found it to be a clever thread to the story.
Gemma’s strength as a writer comes in the form of character building. By the end of the book, you feel for Laura. You understand that this is a character who was robbed of her childhood. That has grown up overwhelmed with fear and guilt. The humiliating things that X has demanded of her. The pressure placed upon her shoulders to take responsibility for something that could never have been the fault of a 13-year-old girl. All these factors, effectively ruined her life, ruined her relationships. Contributed to a life of loneliness and paranoia.
X casts a constant shadow over the entire story. While not the most prominent character in the book, you can feel his presence on every page and this is testament to how well developed, malevolent and sinister his character and motivations are. We learn very little about him until towards the end of the book and this works for the better in letting the mystery fill in the blanks and create a very real, omnipresent threat. Much like how keeping the Shark in Jaws hidden for most of the movie helped create the feeling of an unseen yet forever lurking menace. He is a terrifying antagonist that could pop up anywhere, yet remains an enigma for most of the story.
A story is only as good as its hero though, and Laura is a character that you really root for. She has been through the wringer and as I turned each page; I wanted to see her take control and get some payback. I won’t spoil how her story concludes in this review. I found it to be a mixed bag of emotion. Satisfying and yet, a real gut punch, all at the same time.
Gemma Amor is a very talented writer and her knack for pulling you into the story isn’t something that should be overlooked. I look forward to reading more of her work. If you’re looking for something that will keep you on the edge of your seat, then Dear Laura is definitely worth your time.
Other titles by Gemma Amor include Cruel Works of Nature: 11 illustrated Horror Novella's & the forthcoming White Pines.
Gemma also writes for the popular NoSleep Podcast.
She also writes for, produces and acts in horror comedy podcast 'Calling Darkness', which also stars film and TV actress, Kate Siegel of Hush & The Haunting of Hill House.
Why not treat yourself to a copy of Dear Laura by following the link below:
USA readers can find it here: