(Editor’s note: This review contains major spoilers.)
What happens when you successfully rob a bank, but unbeknownst to you, the hostage you take is a notorious cannibalistic serial killer?
Hint: It doesn’t end well.
The Hostage by Elizabeth Bell is a fast-paced Extreme Horror novella detailing the events of a bank robbery and its aftermath. The story introduces a serial killer called the Hunter who crosses paths with a group of troubled young adults and teenagers bent on blowing town and starting new lives. The group decides to rob a bank to jump-start their futures but unwittingly takes the hostage from Hell. The book also presents the unlikely tragic heroine from the wrong side of the trailer park named Vickie.
The story opens with Vickie sitting beside her mother and listening to a sermon at a Catholic church, which infuses a bit of religious subtext into the book. The irony of Vickie inside a church questioning its hypocrisy while praying to reach the bank in time for the robbery wasn’t lost on me.
Abused and neglected by her alcoholic mother, Vickie’s part in the heist is to play a fake hostage inside the bank and then keep tabs on the one real hostage after the group makes their escape to a secluded cabin in the woods. The seemingly harmless male hostage, however, is not who he appears.
When the young criminals reach the cabin, the joy of counting money escalates into a fight for survival as the Hunter is unleashed. Brutally confident, the Hunter is relentless in his desire to play his murderous games.
Bell then introduces the police detectives on the case, and we follow their progress in the search for the bank robbers as we follow the Hunter’s game of cat and mouse with Vickie. It turns out the police have been on the trail of the Hunter for two years, but because of the randomness of his victims, they’ve failed to track him down.
The Hunter is a sick puppy. He not only kills his victims, but he eats pieces of them, too. One particular scene of desecrating a corpse easily elevates The Hostage into the Extreme Horror subgenre. You’ve been warned.
The climax features a bleak but dramatic twist ending that delivers the thriller goods. However, despite the cruel twist and even crueler actions of the Hunter, the heart of the tale is Vickie’s transformation from milquetoast victim to scrappy survivor.