“A fine line separates the weary recluse from the fearful hermit. Finer still is the line between hermit and bitter misanthrope.” – Dean Koontz
Title: The Next
Author: Rafe Haze
Publisher: Wilde City Press
Pages/Word Count: 257 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: He never thought he’d become one of the agoraphobic sludges of New York City—trapped with one view of a courtyard and a head full of wrenching memories.
Dumped, disconnected, and depressed, he surrenders to spying on the neighbors as his only entertainment.
Until one day, without warning, the lascivious and suspicious behavior of the closeted lawyer in the huge apartment across the courtyard leads him to a spine-tingling conclusion… his neighbor is a murderer.
Perhaps collaborating with the beautiful and fierce Detective Marzoli to catch the killer can finally breathe life back into a man suffocated by the stranglehold of a tragic past. Unless the killer across the way decides to make him… The Next.
Review: It is a rare thing when a brand new author hits the mark so decisively with his very first story. Rafe Haze has certainly accomplished that with his incredible novel, The Next. With every word, he breathed life into his characters, built an intense and compelling plot and gave us an exquisite love story wrapped in a clever mystery. Written with the same flair as Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, author Rafe Haze steps beyond that spine tingling model to present characters so believable, so down to earth that you almost swear they are people you have met on your very own street.
The story unfolds inside the mind and life of … you’re waiting for his name, aren’t you? Well, unless I am truly inept I am certain that we never discover our MC’s name. The names of all those who impact his life, who rattle around in his tortured and twisted memories, and who become the very air he breathes? Yes, their names leap off the page at us as our MC brings them to life through his interactions with them, but never once is his name uttered in this story. The remarkable thing? I never even noticed. I was so completely immersed in his life, his horrific past and his tenuous grip on his present that I never even thought to question the idea that his name was never uttered by anyone.
Instead, I watched as he scrambled to hold on to his own humanity as he waited for what he termed “the next”, that moment when his life would move in a decisive direction. Would it include his power grasping, tyrannical girlfriend Johanna, and her need for progeny? Would he finally come to see the people across the way as something other than the caustic, degrading names he had assigned them as he lived in his own prison, watching their lives unfold? Or would the appearance of Detective Marzoli, who was investigating the murder of the man who lived above our MC, finally be the one person who could pierce the agoraphobic half-life existence our poor, battered MC had built around himself?
This novel was not only a compelling and fingernail-biting mystery, it was also a slowly developing love story between two wounded and frightened men. Our MC discovers for the first time that he can crack the dark lid of his past and not be consumed by it, but instead, that there is someone who will hold him after he falls down the rabbit hole time and again. Detective Marzoli meets his own demons head on and exposes them to a man who, while seemingly consumed by his own fate, manages to reach out and extend a healing touch to this wounded investigator. Our detective and MC are hideously flawed, yet there is within them this pure golden streak of humanity that makes them the most beautiful humans to walk the earth.
I cannot begin to tell you what an incredible novel The Next turned out to be. I will warn you, there are on the page reflections here which speak of some very dark and painful childhood memories that could be triggers for those readers who have experienced abuse at the hand of another in their own lives. However, those passages are never presented for mere sensationalism. Rather, they make up the very fabric of our MC’s past and influence who is he in the present. This story does not flinch in the face of corrupt evil, but it allows for healing to begin where before there was only empty, lingering pain.
In short, The Next was an incredibly beautiful novel of resounding hope. I could not put this book down. Every page, every word carried me along and held me fast in its grip. Rafe Haze has set the bar high for his first novel, and I cannot wait to see what this talented young author comes up with next. I highly recommend this novel to you!
You can buy The Next here: