Stranglehold by Jack Ketchum

Stranglehold - Jack Ketchum,  Chet Williamson

Ketchum throws you down into the muck that is the worst of humanity, pins you there and rubs your face in it. If you haven’t read him before you should know this before jumping in. Stranglehold takes an unflinching look at the kind of real life horror that occurs every day. The kind of horror that trickles down, creating a legacy of pain and torment.

Lydia meets Arthur and falls in love. He’s decent and kind and a respectable business owner. But Arthur is a good actor. He’s a sociopath who believes he’s been put on earth to make people realize the world is an ugly pain-filled place. He has done some terrible things in his past and though he fools Lydia for a while, he can’t hide his true self forever. After they have a baby they name Robert, the cracks begin to show and Arthur’s behavior becomes increasingly abusive towards Lydia. Lydia sticks it out until he crosses a line and she realizes she’s been living with a madman and files for divorce. She allows him visitation for Robert’s sake. He loves Robert after all and even after her own abuse at his hands, she believes he is a good father who would never hurt their son . . .

What happens next is just grueling but it wouldn’t be a Ketchum book if it was all unicorns and rainbows. The book follows Lydia through the injustices of the legal system. Lydia assumes she is doing the right thing by following all the rules but playing by the rules isn’t enough. A nasty, ugly and unfair trial begins. It’s infuriating and sad and the innocents, unfortunately, are the ones who suffer the most. It really makes you understand why some people take their kids and run.

I really felt for Lydia and Robert. Lydia’s own past was one filled with abuse and that was the last thing she wanted for her child. She feels guilty and bravely stands up to Arthur once she realizes what a deranged beast he truly was beneath the respectable façade. But sadly she was helpless once she entered the courtroom and had to depend on other people to do right by her.

This book was suspenseful but it will more than likely make you angry. It was horribly grim and unpleasant but it’s one of those books that you have to see through to the end regardless of the fact that you know you’ll probably be sorry.

Narration Notes: Chet Williamson reads with an intense, serious tone well suited to the bleak material. I think he would do an amazing job with a gumshoe noir type of hero because he has that type of voice. He brings Arthur to life; his voice is menacing, mean and calculated and just what this piece demands. Much of this story is told from Lydia’s point of view, however, and I always think it strange when a male is chosen to read a female character Williamson does a decent enough job with Lydia, forgoing the silly cringe-worthy falsetto that some male narrators use, but I would’ve preferred a woman to voice her thoughts, if I’m being completely honest. He’s not bad by any means, but a woman (at least for Lydia’s parts), would’ve been a better choice. When it comes to Robert I have no complaints. He sounded like the confused, scared kid that he was supposed to be and the other male character were easily discernible from one another.

Audiobook received for review for Audiobook Jukebox