Rites of Extinction by Matt Serafini
Rebecca Daniels is a forty-something woman on a mission to exact revenge against the man that murdered her teenage daughter. What seems to start as a typical thrilling manhunt soon takes a bizarre and sinister turn. In place of a lengthy synopsis, this is really all you need.
Serafini writes Rebecca’s character, a seasoned private investigator with a chip on her shoulder, brilliantly. In the first short chapter, we catch a glimpse of a woman we assume is just suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome. While observing another family at a rest stop, her inner dialogue is so spot on that you can imagine yourself with the exact same assumptions and offering them the same unspoken advice. Just from these first few pages, I decided that I was really going to like this woman and that she was a good representation of any heart-broken parent seeking closure.
Then Rebecca arrives in Bright Fork and you can no longer tell if this situation is still bizarre or if she is suffering from psychosis to the fullest degree.
The beginning of this novel made me think ‘crime noir’ and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Following Rebecca, as she single-handedly tries to solve a string of crimes that have remained open for some time, pouring salt in the wound as she re-interviews and re-visits members of the community and crime scenes. While I absolutely love trying to piece the clues together, the best mysteries are when the author has you trying to violently smash the pieces in place when you know there is no way in hell it is going to work. You will not figure this one out, I promise.
My favorite part of this novella is, naturally, the twist. However, the twisty-ness in this one doesn’t happen in the last five pages of the book like you would assume. The story continues afterward with a hazy other-worldly atmosphere that is extremely satisfying. In the last quarter of the story, there is an exceptional amount of internal and external dialogue that is imperative to wrap this story up. I often find that narratives such as these become far more confusing than they need to be. Serafini does a fantastic job of using this to show how much conflict we’re really working with here, without letting it get sloppy.
This novella holds the right amount of crime, mystery, and gore as well as one of the best surprises I have encountered in a horror story in a while. It will have you double-checking your rearview mirror for days.
You can find Keely on Instagram @keelyfuse85