Author: Christine Benedict
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Debra Hamilton confronts the fear of inheriting mental illness when her husband moves her into a hundred-year-old farmhouse on fifty-three acres of blacklisted real estate property. Floorboards creak when she’s alone. Objects appear and disappear. Neighbors insinuate the house is haunted but memories of her mother’s schizophrenia make her wonder. Julie, a neighbor who befriends Debra, faces her own fears when a stalker starts sending perverted anonymous letters that cause a rift in Julie’s unstable marriage. Their plots merge as their friendship grows to create a rich and satisfying story.
All the letters in the novel are actual letters from the man who stalked me. He wrote of his sexual fantasies, of him watching me when I thought I was alone. I never found out who he was, but my mind raced with all these theories. My 100-year-old farmhouse was the backdrop for the story where the neighbors still say it’s haunted.
“Intelligence, as well as emotion, drives this novel. A taut thriller rich with lurid details yet also an evocation of vividly real and compelling characters.” –Mark Spencer, author of A Haunted Love Story, The Weary Motel, The Masked Demon, and Trespassers.
If I had to sum up in one sentence my thoughts on this book: This book scared me to death!
I love thrillers, especially set in rural settings. There’s something frightening about an old farmhouse and someone trying to kill you; there’s nowhere to run and no one to hear your screams.
Debra and her husband, Greg, have just moved into a broken-down farmhouse. Everything is in need of repair and it’s rumored to be haunted. Greg doesn’t seem to care but Debra is paralyzed with fear. Debra’s afraid she’s inherited her mother’s schizophrenia. Tormented by childhood memories that won’t leave her alone, Debra looks to Greg for support.
After they’ve settled in, Debra becomes friends with her nearest neighbor, Julie. Julie is a seasoned farmwife and helps Debra settle in to being on a farm and so forth. Even though Julie is much older than young Debra, their views on life, husbands and family are similar.
One day, Julie shares a letter she’s received from an anonymous admirer with Debra. Julie’s uncomfortable and Debra understands how she feels. But when the letters keep coming, Julie’s husband (Kyle) vows to kill the stalker. All is not as it seems and soon everyone involved will be forced to deal with the consequences of the Anonymous letters.
This thriller is one of the scariest I’ve ever read. Filled with complex and well-developed characters, Anonymous will keep you guessing until the very end. Christine Benedict is a master of building suspense with nuances of the mentally unstable. She grabs ahold of the reader like literary best-sellers James Patterson and Harlan Coben and keeps you guessing until the very end.
For me, what made this one of the very best thrillers I’ve read are the characters and the scenery. She manages to evoke emotional attachment for each of the characters. This is a great feat because several of the characters I despised. But by the time the story ends, you see the characters for who they are and how their environment shaped them. Christine also describes in clear depiction how desolate and lonely it can be on a farm.
It’s no surprise to me that this book has won a lot of awards. If I had an award to give for the very best thriller that scared me senseless (had to read in the daytime with music playing), I would give it to Anonymous. Yes, it’s that good!
Debra. When we first meet Debra, she’s shy and frightened of her surroundings. But as time goes by and she shares more of herself (and her background) to Julie, she blossoms into a strong, confident woman who defends her friends and family to the death, if needs be. I loved her reaction to the bull.
“Out of nowhere, a shape materialized on the living room wall. Luminous, its twisted silhouette etched in shadows, it inched its way along the wall. The heaviness of her heart, thumping, pulsing, jarred her every limb.”
My Rating: 5+ stars
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Christine studied creative writing at Baldwin Wallace University and Cleveland State University. She has had the privilege of working with authors Karen Joy Fowler, Paula McLain, and Sarah Willis.
Her novel Anonymous won the 2016 Wishing Shelves Book Bronze Award, The 2015 Clue Award (Chanticleer Reviews), and The 2015 Eric Hoffer Book Award.
Anonymous was also nominated for The 2015 First Horizon Book Award, 2015 IAN Book Of The Year and 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award.
Her short stories have been finalists for Perigee Publication for the Arts and The Fish Short Story Prize.
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Reviewed by: Mrs. N