Rare Breeds by Erik Hofstatter
Aurel and Zora Schwartz are a married couple trying to make a modern relationship work. But an old secret is going to affect them in ways neither of them can imagine. And Zora’s daughter Livie may find herself caught in a trap built long before she was born. The ending will leave you stunned and speechless. Get ready to scream.
We’ve all been envious of another person at some point in our lives. You’ve looked at someone and thought “They’ve got it all sorted. They have the perfect life, the perfect family”. No doubt, part of you has wanted to be just like them. The thing you must remember is that the socially acceptable face of a person is little more than a thin veneer of civility. Inside, in the dark recesses of the human psyche, everyone is just as screwed up as you are. Everyone has issues, has skeletons in the closet.
The character of Aurel reads like a prime example of this. On the face of it, he has it all. He loves his life. He is in a stable marriage, and even gets on with his step daughter. On the flip-side of that however, you quickly realise he is entirely in thrall to his sister. He is troubled by her presence and she has always been there, lurking in the background. She has an almost hypnotic control over each of Aurel’s actions.
As control over his life and the constant meddling by his sister escalates, Aurel starts to exhibit symptoms. Outwardly, he begins randomly sleepwalking most nights, but it’s the inner turmoil that exists within him that is particularly well executed. Can Aurel save his family and appease his increasingly maniacal sister at the same time?
The tension builds towards a horrific climax where Zora is forced to confront the truth about Aurel and his sister. The outcome veers off on tangent that I wasn’t expecting. I always like when an author successfully pulls off a nice bit of misdirection. There is also a suitably creepy coda to the story that feels as though it is the rancid cherry on top of a delightfully icky cake.
I think I would be genuinely anxious about meeting Erik Hofstatter in the flesh. I shudder at the thought of the dark ideas that must be percolating in that brain of his. If we were ever in the same room, I would have to move incredibly slowly as so not to attract his attention, hoping his evil eye would remain focused elsewhere.
There is little denying that Rare Breeds is a gloriously nasty novella. It manages to be creepy and sinister, while still feeling grounded in reality. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll get to the point where we see a full-length novel from Erik Hofstatter. Yes, a novel would be a rare treat indeed. I’ve enjoyed everything of his I’ve read so far, and Rare Breeds in no exception. I can heartily recommend this author and his work.
Rare Breeds is published by Dark Silo Press and is available now.