A prolific horror/thriller author for over 30 years, John Saul at some point during his career came out of the closet, and as far as I know, Faces of Fear, one of his final fiction titles, is the only one with gay characters. Correct me if I’m wrong, because it’s the only novel of his I’ve read.
So just how integral are the gays to the plot?
I don’t know if this novel is indicative of Saul’s general style, but I found it quite enjoyable in a comfort read kind of way. With a majority of female characters and POVs, it reminded me of the horror and suspense novels I devoured as a teen in the 80s by the likes of Mary Higgins Clark and Clare McNally. I aspired to write horror novels like those authors. I don’t know where I went right, but I ended up penning sexy gay horror novels instead! Heh heh.
Of course being similar to novels of that era also means this one is ridiculously formulaic and predictable. “Whodunit” seems way too obvious right from the start, so you assume that’s just a red herring and there will be twists galore. Nope. It plays out exactly like you’d imagine.
It’s also a tried and true horror cliché plot about a psycho assembling female body parts to craft the perfect woman. It’s kind of astounding that a bestselling author with three decades of work behind him would be satisfied writing something this derivative.
A high school girl has to adjust to high society life when her mother remarries, and she is soon drawn into the temptation of making herself perfect like all her new rich, snobby friends…using plastic surgery.
Meanwhile, a reporter that works with the teen’s gay father is following and trying to break a story about a serial killer that is gathering female body parts. There are a handful of grisly murders along the way, but they’re just the backdrop to a story of about female self-worth, social standing, and objectification.
Of course there’s the welcome inclusion of not one but two gay men. While they aren’t copiously present throughout the novel, they are absolutely crucial to the events that play out in the final few chapters.
Also of note is that if I read right, one character is trans, but the references are surprisingly cryptic and used as an attack on the character (think deadnaming).
And finally, the funny thing about the novel is that so much of the story revolves around the killer using MySpace to find victims. Wow. That sure does date a book fast.