Voice by Joseph Garraty

Voice - Joseph Garraty

John desperately wants to be a rock star but no matter how many lessons he takes his voice will always be the thing holding his band “Ragman” back from fame and fortune. He knows this and it eats at him but he’s determined to make it big. Making promises he can’t afford to keep, he convinces a beautiful, kick-ass guitarist named Stephanie Case to join his band. Soon after a strange man approaches him, a man who smells bad and seems to know far too much about John and who tempts him into making a deal that gives him the voice of his dreams but at a hellish cost.

You pretty much know where “Voice” is going from the eerie opening chapter but watching it all unfold with a relentless sense of dread in the pit of your stomach is what makes it such a page-turner. But it’s also the well-crafted band dramatics and tricky relationships that also kept me turning the pages. The situations felt genuine and I appreciated the fact that the people here aren’t caricatures when they easily could’ve been. Case, the female guitarist is a tough bitch but as the story develops she struggles to rein in some of the darkest edges of her personality and even makes a friend despite herself and develops into a real, albeit, flawed person. No one is vilified here. Even Gina, Danny’s workaholic unsupportive wife, is given the chance to show an understanding side in a heartbreaking scene with Danny.

The point of view switches, especially in the earlier parts of the story were a bit disconcerting but things smoothed out. The descriptions are vivid and get right to the point:

“He had a voice to match, too—thin, tiny, and scratchy, warbling like an anorexic basset hound.”

“The band laid into something that sounded like a version of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” that had been knocked down, stomped on, and finally kicked in the head for good measure.”

and my favorite squirm-worthy description:

"John could see the flesh of his neck, maggot-white and pulsing."

There’s a lot of weirdness in “Voice” as Ragman develops a following of the world’s creepiest super fans. But it was never overly brutal or gratuitous even as the death toll and horror escalated. Creepy stuff, I enjoyed it immensely.