The Dark Game by Jonathan Janz

The Dark Game - Jonathan Janz

In the latest novel from Jonathan Janz, ten authors have been invited to compete in an exclusive retreat at a famous writer's remote estate. The winner gets a golden ticket to literary stardom. The rules are that you can tell no one where you're going and bring no method of communication with you. The last such retreat's winner, many years before, had become an overnight sensation and is still a revered writer.  For these authors, who have a dark secrets in their past, this is too good an opportunity to pass up.


The tone is set as the individual authors arrival is deliberately staggered. They approach the house on foot from the surrounding forest. The house is in disrepair and the welcome isn't what they expect.


I've put in a spoiler screen below, but the back of the book makes it pretty clear that ten writers walking in does not mean ten writers walking out. 'The Dark Game' struck me as a combination of


(show spoiler)


I was surprised there were no references in-text to either title, as there were a few shout-outs to other works and other writers across the Horror/Mystery spectrum. This is the first book I've read by Janz so I can't comment on how this compares to his other work, but this was an effective story - it kept me reading - but I feel like a lot of characterization was thrown out the window in favor of more scares and gore early on. I wanted to tell him that its OK to build up the suspense a little. You have this diverse(ish) group of characters isolated in the middle of the woods, and they are all creative types, and we don't get a lot of what's going on inside their minds.


In addition to the ten writers there are a couple of villains who muhahaha'd a little too hard, too soon so there was little chance of more atmosphere. Some of the best sections of 'Dark Game' were when portions of the author's writing was shared, it allowed nice breaks in the flow of the plot and some better insight into the characters themselves.


I'll definitely check out more Janz and other authors on the Flame Tree Press imprint.