Jon O’Bergh’s The Shatter Point is a tough book to pigeonhole as far as genre is concerned. It fits nicely into the thriller mold, but that doesn’t get you anywhere close to a complete picture. There are elements of ghost story and even a touch of slasher horror. Psychological horror may be the most apt description, as The Shatter Point seeks to examine people under stress, and what happens when they reach their breaking point.
O’Bergh sets up the type of story where we begin by following two groups of people whose stories have nothing to do with each other, but whose paths seem destined to cross at some point. In that vein, we are reminded of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone as we start to try to guess just what’s going to happen when they do. Side note: if you are able to guess how it all turns out, you’d make a far better chess player than I.
A good deal of our time is spent with Asher, a sensitive musician who is dating a less-than-sensitive, and pretty much instantly unlikeable girl named Jada. We spend a lot of time with Asher and his band, writing and playing music, and O’Bergh nails musical terminology and recording techniques in a way that many readers might pass by, but students of music will appreciate. Of course this is small potatoes, but we’ve sat through too many “he played the loudest pitch” moments, and we’re not gonna take it anymore.
I digress. While Asher seeks to prove himself worthy of Jada’s attention, we also follow Phil and Donna Woods, as well as Donna’s son from a previous marriage, Billy. New to the neighborhood, and living in a house of dubious repute, the Woods seek to set up a haunted house. Not the ghost-y fun kind, but the push yourself to the limit, borderline torture kind. One particular neighbor, Ruth, is understandably opposed to the haunt, and a feud between her and the Woods begins to escalate. O’Bergh sprinkles in bits of family drama and personality characteristics, some as clues, some as red herrings, and we digest the information and eagerly turn the page to find out what happens next.
At around page 150 or so of 186, The Shatter Point makes a choice. I was hooked, but very concerned we were going to tread down a predictable path and the story would be stuck in 2 star, don’t bother because you’ve read this before, purgatory. Thankfully, we bypass that path without a second glance. There are enough twists and turns in the last few pages to fill an entire novel. Even within the last ten pages, the author sets up what looks to be an ambiguous, reader fits the pieces together, ending. I was okay with that. But, oh man, the last few pages. The last few (and I literally mean 3-4 pages) wrap things up in a way that is devious, unsettling, and for me, made it all work.
If you’re looking for a weekend read that is thrilling, fast-paced, and provides a very interesting insight to what choices different people will make and what different people are capable under duress, you owe it to yourself to give this a read. If you do, and you’re finding it a bit paint-by-numbers, know that this is a story that needs all 186 pages to perform its’ magic. Speaking of magic, I have no doubt that Jon O’Bergh is taking pleasure in trying to get us to look in one direction so that we are surprised and applaud when the crux of the trick is revealed.
I received a copy of this book from the author for review consideration.