Review by Jaq D Hawkins
The Litter is a very well written and gritty post-apocalyptic story about a social worker, Karen, and her shocking discoveries when her work with a homeless shelter takes her into a dangerous part of the city simply known as ‘the zone’. When multiple half-eaten bodies begin to be found in the area, things get dark very fast.
Doyle can set a scene well and in as few words as possible. I found his writing style very effective and well balanced between description and dialogue. I’m not usually attracted to stories where a lot of cops and emergency service characters are prevalent, but this time it was so well done that I was pulled in at the Prologue and found myself staying up late at night just to read some more. He also has a knack for dropping bombshell teases at the end of a chapter so that you really want to go onto the next one.
The chapters are fairly short, which makes it easy to read “just one more” until much of the book goes by. There is a good sense of timing and although it can occasionally be a little repetitive, mostly very tight writing that gets out a lot of information without wasting words.
The story has neatly interwoven subplots that apart from Karen’s familial relationship dynamics and work for the homeless shelter, delve into issues of homelessness, life in shelters and the dynamics of street people. While the main plot becomes suitably creepy fairly early in the story and even moves into the fantastical, the multi-layered plot lines artfully bring out the emotional aspects of Karen’s back story as well as giving the reader much to think about concerning the social issues involved as well as the nature of sentient life.
There is some transparent foreshadowing about a significant character who doesn’t feature until later in the book, and then only in passing. Also a couple of my pet peeves were hit, i.e. the American words ‘normalcy’ and ‘gotten’ and the use of incomplete sentences in one section, “Hadn’t done it the night before.”
However, the good points of the book far outweigh these small imperfections. There is a rather interesting point of view change to a feral kid that shows the balance between human thought and animal perceptions which I felt really brought the situation into focus, as well as some well defined details about how the ferals walk and why they don’t seem quite right. This really brought out the creep factor for me.
I did find the ending a little too abrupt, and assume a sequel is planned to follow up a loose end that was left. While I would have preferred a conclusive ending, the journey was well worth the time reading and I will be keeping an eye on this author. If you want a thriller that doesn’t pull punches and a narrative style that keeps you turning pages, this is a good one. I was thinking 4.5 stars, but with the sudden ending I’ll amend it to a solid 4 stars.