Book: The First One You Expect
Author: Adam Cesare
Published by: Broken River Books
Adam Cesare is one of the top voices in modern horror, but he apparently wasn’t content with that. Now, with the release of The First One You Expect, he also joins the group of fresh crime/noir voices that lovers of gritty fiction should be excited about. Sure, a few authors have previously transitioned from horror to crime, but Cesare has done it while retaining the voice he uses to deliver his outstanding horror novels intact and with the same passion for the genre, inside knowledge, and knack for gore he displays in his scary narratives.
The First One You Expect follows Tony Anastos, a guy living in his parents’ basement who directs low budget horror films when not working at a local Stop & Shop. Tony and his friend/co-worker Burt love slasher films, so most of their free time is spent making movies about their masked killer, The Debaser. Like most indie films in the subgenre, their movies are full of blood, bad special effects, and breasts. Tony’s used to this state of affairs, but then things change. Anna is a cute young girl who starts working at the Stop & Shop. She takes an interest in his movies and talks Tony into letting her create a sexy female serial killer. She wants to be a star and thinks Tony is the man that can make it happen. Soon Cat Killer is born and the next movie, for which there is no script yet, promises to be their best outing yet. Unluckily for everyone, Anna has different plans, and Burt becomes the first real victim of the fake killer. With a very successful Kickstarter pushing them forward and Anna’s seductive, psychotic personality in the lead, Tony gets sucked into a situation where the murder and mayhem of his movies becomes the real thing.
An attractive woman committing a few murders is believable, and so is Tony as a character. The First One You Expect is engrossing because it’s not about high-speed chases and Hollywood-esque gun fights. Instead, the main character is a loser who falls for a hot girl with some twisted ideas who will do anything it takes to be a star, and the reader can’t help but go along with him for the ride despite that fact that everything points to an ugly finale. Cesare knows horror, film making, the internet, collectors, conventions, and the subcultures that brings all of it together, and the result is a story that doesn’t seem farfetched and, if you know a few things about Kickstarter and Twitter, is packed with underhanded humor.
This novella is shorter than Cesare’s horror novels, but he packed just as much punch into these 100 pages as he does in his 250-page narratives. The reduced word count means the story moves forward at a brisk pace, the prose is lean, and the violence stands out.
For his crime debut, Cesare deconstructed the horror genre and its fandom and wrapped it up in a murderous narrative. It was a risky move, but he pulled it off brilliantly. The First One You Expect is a fast, sexy, fun, dangerous read, and enough of a taste to make me hope Cesare ventures into crime fiction regularly.