Skip to content

May 17, 2018


Aurealis Award Best Horror Novel 2017 short list

by N@ncy


  1. Well, I’m still looking for horror!
  2. I read the winner of the
  3. Aurealis Award Best Horror Novel 2017
  4. Soon and was mildly impressed.
  5. Now I have decided to look further….on the short list.
  6. I found Aletheia by J.S. Breukelaar
  7. The name has potential….but is it horrific?
  8. I have never heard of the author but according to
  9. …some comment I saw this book is
  10. a demanding story that will grip the reader and
  11. …hold them relentlessly until the end.
  12. Does the book drip strangeness?
  13. I will put the book to the test!


Feedback:  response to comment by Tracy at  Bitter Tea and Mystery

Tracy, I was just like you…Horror, avoid at all costs.
Now I have found that horror is not only slasher narratives with blood dripping from chainsaws!
It is creating with language and imagery an unsettling tense feeling as to what is yet to come.
There are different sorts of horror gothic –Dracula-  and Supernatural –Aletheia- non-supernatural. This category includes frightening crime or mystery stories. I read Lemaitre’s –Alex- ..and was frightened to death by rats attacking a victim! Tracy, perhaps you are reading horror and didn’t realize it!



  1. Aletheia is the Greek goddess of truth… Roman name Veritas.
  2. In this book Aletheia refers not so much to the truth.
  3. …but how you find it.”


Genre:  supernatural horror

  1. Breukelaar uses phrases that create a creepy unsettling air.
  2. Strong point being the imagery and personification of the lake.
  3. The one of the best ‘horror’ chapters was  ch 16 Dark Wind.
  4. Lee faces the supernatural unknown he feels on the lake.
  5. What do you want?  And the lake doesn’t answer,
  6. …but somethig else does.”


Theme:  fear

  1. Find the blind spot…what they refuse to see is what they are afraid of.
  2. What do the men refuse to see? (Lee – Doc – Frankie)
  3. What must the women do?
  4. Thettie  must find room to ‘move in their blind spot’
  5. Bryce: blinded in one eye…yet she saw everyone’s fears.


  1. Motif – tongue  (reptilian, poisonous, death)
  2. Vernon’s tongue-tip flicked out (ch1)
  3. – a black tongue of lake water (ch 5)
  4. – …licked the glass of the dream-window
  5. – the black dream tongue fading…(ch 9)
  6. – a tongue dragged itself along the steamy
  7. – inside of the window… (10)
  8. black tongues of lake….lap hungrily at the side of the canoe (ch 16)
  9. This is a great horror effect!


  1. Motif  – triangle  (fate)
  2. I found one quote that perhaps is the idea behind the form:
  3. “…a triangulation that finally began to make sense.
  4. Geometry is fate.” (ch 13)
  5. Place names:
  6. Triangle Gully, Triangle Bridge, Triangle Creek Triangle Falls
  7. business triangles: Homer with a rifle – a dirt-colored shack – pails for the dogs
  8. love triangles – Archy – Bryce – Grif
  9. guilt triangles – Frankie – Thettie – Doc
  10. child/mother triangles –  Archy – Thettie – Grif
  11. This brings tension….someone will be left out
  12. but who?


  1. Motif – eye    (evil eye?)
  2. Many references to eye – fish hook
  3. Bryce catches ‘baby’ – doll on fishing line —-fish hook in eye.
  4. Lee’s son draws a howling mutation (in lake?) and his
  5. mother crayon in a burning star in its dead eye.
  6. Bryce: one-eye water rat
  7. Lee began to move off, but the
  8. …amber slice in her (Bryce) eye held him in place.
  9. Bryce: wore an eye patch that “seemed to eat up the all the light”
  10. There are many more references
  11. …..try to find them!


HOOK:   What hooked me?

  1. I cannot pinpoint one specific moment in the first
  2. few chapters that I can say ‘hooked’ me.
  3. Of course the ‘shock and awe’ of the first sentence
  4. ….but there must be more. 
  5. I wasn’t interested in reading the book in the first place
  6. ….but wanted to investigate the shortlist
  7. …Aurealis Prize Best Horror Novel  2017.
  8. The fact that I kept reading
  9. ….because of the quality of the writing is the hook.
  10. If you can keep ME interested in a horror book
  11. …then you must be doing something right
  12. ….#Bravo  J.M. Breuklaar



  1. J.S. Breukelaar is a master of foreshadowing.
  2. She made her plot clues subtle and for this reader
  3. ….apparent during a re-reading!
  4. The author wants to build suspense.
  5. I tried to read very carefully and the book is intricately plotted.
  6. I had to read 10 chapters…then re-read/skim them
  7. to pick up on what I had missed the first time around.
  8. Once I had a grasp of the basic conflicts
  9. ….reading was much smoother…and creepier!



  1. Breukelaar personifies the lake
  2. ..whenever she can giving it a  horror-touch:
  3. …the lake jumped at her between the houses.
  4. …a black tongue of the lake licked her heel.
  5. …the lake winked between the trees.
  6. crouched waiting for the unrisen sun.
  7. shrank from a rascally moon.
  8. …(weed) the lake sucked it in.



  1. Lee:  obsessed with the lake after his son was
  2. …killed and parts of body thrown in lake (horror)
  3. “Death is not the end, neither for the dead
  4. nor those they leave behind.” (ch14)
  5. Thettie: obsessed with guilt from the past
  6. “I got to make things right….” (ch 13)
  7. Bryce:  ….she is not what she seems!



  1. Breukelaar used a chewy setting
  2. …something she could set her teeth into!
  3. Breukelaar  uses personification 
  4. the lake jumped, winked,
  5. licked at her heels.
  6. She used all the features of the lake
  7. the lake oozed and spread, cold, dark and indestructible
  8. ….black tongue of lake water licked her heel
  9. to increase the creepy unsettling  feelings in the story.
  10. What is the hungry nameless thing in the lake?
  11. I was fascinated by a lake…..that came to life!


Tone:  creepy

  1. Breukelaar created a very wierd 
  2. …creepy world in the Pennsylvania back country.
  3. “The lake flushed purple, bruised by its own loveliness
  4. ….leaves dripped bloody from the trees.
  5. Lee looks through shards of glass…
  6. …like seeing the world through alien tears (ch 6)
  7. Breukelaar shows ….does not tell.
  8. She uses the sense of smell (80x) to prickle the reader’s imagination.
  9. …the metallic smell of the lake, smell of burnt wiring, burned waffels,
  10. her breath smells like cocoa and some kind of vegetable,
  11. the smell of iodine-soaked bandage.


Tension:  …every page tingles with tension!

  1. I was mesmerized by the character’s
  2. …thoughts of obsessions and death wishes.
  3. For example:
  4. This is Lee’s obsession….to probe the lake until he finds his son.
  5. Lee’s death wish “…the only way to beat the monster
  6. …is to join it.” (ch 16)
  7. Throughout the book I kept wondering
  8. …will good triumph over evil…or NOT!


Conclusion:     Mainstream fiction or horror fiction?

  1. I was surprised to find in J.S. Breukelaar’s  horror novel
  2. superior writing and great emotional depth (example ch 11).
  3. My preconceptions that horror is
  4. …less than mainstream fiction are gone forever!
  5. The horror writer wants us to expand our imagination with images.
  6. Best image… was the island in the middle of the lake.
  7. I had to admire how creative Breukelaar is!
  8. “Island was a bugger sneezed out in nostril shape
  9. …with nose-hair foliage.” (ch 2)

Last Thoughts:


  1. With all due respect to  people who know how to judge literature…
  2. I would like to see the jury report of
  3. …Aurealis Awards Best Horror Novel 2017.
  4. I read the winner Soon by Lois Murphy and Aletheia short listed.
  5. As a reader J.S. Breukelaar’s novel should have won!
  6. #MustRead….really a must! 


What is the most important difference between Soon and Aletheia ?

  1. While reading Aletheia
  2. I was constantly asking myself questions.
  3. …which plot twist do I think is coming next?
  4. While reading Soon
  5. ….my imagination was not aroused
  6. ….nothing in the book
  7. spurred me on to think with the author.
  8. This is what I mean when I say that  Soon did not engage me
  9. …but Aletheia did!
  10. Wonderful reading experience….that you should not miss!
10 Comments Post a comment
  1. May 17 2018

    I avoid horror, although I am sure there is some that I would like. But then there is so much I already have to read.


    • May 18 2018

      Tracy, I was just like you…horror avoid at all costs.
      Now I have found that horror is not only slasher narratives with blood dripping from chainsaws!
      It is creating with language and imagery an unsettling tense feeling as to what is yet to come.
      There are different sorts of horror gothic (Dracula) and Supernatural (Aletheia) non-supernatural. This category includes frighteing crime or mystery stories. I read Lemaitre’s Alex…and was frightend to death by rats attacking a victim! Tracy, perhaps you are reading horror and didn’t realize it! Thanks for you comments!


  2. May 19 2018

    I sometimes think that the best horror stories are those where the author gives you just enough information, just enough tension and doubt with a little bit of fear and ambiguity, that allows you (the reader) to create/imagine all the bad stuff yourself.


    • May 19 2018

      I think Shirley Jackson nailed it with this quote: “A story must have a surface tension which can be stretched
      ….but not shattered.”
      What was the last horror book you read?

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 19 2018

        I turn to Stephen King for my dose of horror.


  3. craneclaire
    May 28 2018

    Another great review, this will be going in the AWW spec fiction round-up next week

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 28 2018

      Thank you so much for you kind words
      ….I was just (as YA would say) ‘blown away’ by Aletheia (J.S. Breukelaar).
      The author instinctively knows when a character should, howl, dream or fall silent for maximal impact. It’s not easy to get into the mind of a predator (monster of the lake)…but Breukelaar nailed it!



Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Christy Collins: The End of Seeing | NancyElin
  2. Why Horror Seduces | NancyElin
  3. Week in Review – September 17, 2018

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: