Customer Reviews: Spare Key
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on June 29, 2009
It's hard to assess a book like `Spare Key' without addressing the intensely graphic and disturbing nature of the content. Up front I'd have to say that this isn't for everyone. Most people of sound mind would actively seek to avoid such content and I certainly wouldn't blame them. The word that keeps popping up again and again while reading `Spare Key' is `disturbing'. The graphic (often sexualized) violence is gut churning and the taste left in your mouth afterward is foul.

So why read this book? Simply put, `Spare Key' is a wonderfully realized story that completely reverberates within you. It's not often that I have such a visceral reaction to a book. The story itself follows a fairly standard formula and concerns a mentally disturbed man named Ben who is released from care earlier than advisable. He moves next door to a seemingly "average" woman named Rachel. Ben soon proceeds to form an obsession with Rachel who, according to his warped mind, looks just like the mother who abused him during childhood. Ben has concocted a "red room" in his mind wherein he performs the most vulgar acts of violence upon facsimiles of his childhood tormentor. Rachel is the perfect facsimile.

Using this framework, R. Frederick Hamilton proceeds to decimate everything in his path with the raw power of his disturbing prose. I winced on numerous occasions throughout.

This book is topped off with two short stories that if anything, leave an even more unpleasant taste. The first of these, `The Filmmakers' may rate as the most unpleasant story I've ever read. It's a story about a group of teens who (as the product description says) "degenerate into sadism" and an omnipotent being who watches over the teens as they perform their vile acts. There's no reason to linger on the details of the sadism, suffice to say it involves snuff-like home movies starring local children. I read a review of this book recently that wrote this story off as exploitation but I think that's a little too simplistic. This story is a (much) more extreme version of events that occur daily thanks to the ubiquity of recording devices and bored teens. Just check youtube and you'll be bombarded with footage of teens terrorizing people for the camera. If anything, `The Filmmakers' is a statement against a genuine problem that exists today.

The final story here is `Writer's Block' which is a supremely surreal, uncomfortable story about a son held hostage by his bodybuilding mother. The mother is convinced her son will write a masterpiece and the torment she hurls his way is just a part of the process. `Writer's Block' is about as unpleasant as a story concerning a mother kidnapping her own son should be. There is something pathetically amusing about the narrator's plight and it's certainly nice to get a reprieve from the sickening events of the earlier stories.

All in all, `Spare Key; is highly recommended for fans of extreme fiction. However, there's a strong warning: it's not a nice book; it's not a happy book. Quite simply put, It's sickening. Proceed with caution.
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on March 14, 2009
I hadn't heard of this book before a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough to accompany a friend to a local signing where I got the meet the author behind Spare Key.

First thing's first; this book is a nasty piece of work in the best possible way! Many scenes leave you wanting to take a shower but for whatever reason, you're unable to put the devious thing down. I walked away as sickened as I was exhilarated.

Also of note are the two short stories that close this book out. 'The Filmmakers' is repulsively brilliant. Then there's 'Writer's Block', which enters into the realm of the surreal. A kid's kept hostage by his body building mother for christsake!

Spare Key is an amazingly written and conceived slab of true horror for anyone who prefers their fiction especially nasty. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for any future books by R. Frederick Hamilton. Highest recommendation.
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on June 30, 2009
Ben just got out of the loony bin and moved into a hideous lime-green apartment. The lime green perhaps an attempt to subdue the encroaching red. He needed his pills, especially with the pretty neighbor next door, Rachel. Rachel has had her share of wack-job neighbors and naturally is apprehensive about this one as well - and for good reason.
The story takes you into the depths of psychosis, obsession, deranged fantasy, and finally relief...but not the kind you would expect. "Spare Key" spares no detail on the depravities taking place. The book also includes two shorter stories - "The Filmmakers" and "Writer's Block" - both fun reads, almost like icky aftershocks from the main story.
It's gooey, warped and will leave you feeling sticky. Now buy it and shower.
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on January 23, 2011
Like a car wreck I couldn't tear my eyes away from this book. Meet Ben, as a child his mother did horrible things to him and his brother. She'd call from the bedroom, "Benny mummy needs you...", afterwards Ben would then be punished. And as time went on, even though he hated what was being done to him, he also enjoyed it. This always called for major punishment from his mother.

Be warned, I'm going to go into this book and there will be spoilers, so stop reading if you don't want to know.

Once Ben grew into an adult he was twisted and messed up. He was part of a research project and was released with medication back into society. But the urge to visit the Red Room is just too much and before long he's no longer taking his medicine. He moves into an apartment next to a woman who unfortunately has similar features to his hated mother. He can't help but stare at her every chance he gets. And be warned, Ben is always masturbating, I mean, all the time. But little does Ben know, Rachel has secrets of her own. Here's the spoilers......
After watching Rachel leave he uses the spare key he's found to enter her apartment. He's got his tool bag and begins to prepare the bedroom for his event. However, after waiting all day, he finally discovers her box with her Polaroid's and Walter. What he finds is very disturbing. Enough so he puts the room back to its original state and packs up and leaves. But when he goes back to his own apartment he soon discovers where Rachel has been all day and she's waiting for him. He'll find himself actually living the horror he's gave to the occupants of his Red Room. This was surprising twist to have the killer be tortured and killed by his victim who is also a killer. After Rachel has finished with Ben and she's organizing her photos to remember the thrill the story ends.
The second story in this book, the Filmmakers is short and nasty. A group of boys discover the joys of making snuff films until finally someone, who it's never made clear, turns the tables on them. I didn't read the final story in this book as I had enough gore for one evening.

If you are looking for a book that you can't put down, and you are wanting something a bit twisted, here's the book for you.
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on December 16, 2011
The end itself was utterly disapointing, the novel actually as a whole barely delivers. I would hardly call this a horror novel yes at the beginning there are moments of psychological deformity manifested through the novels main character, but the ending ruins the novel in my mind.
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on July 9, 2012
"The Filmmakers", which is the second short story is basically soft core porn, bordering on an "X" rating. "Spare Key" is very disturbing and twisted. I finished it, but sorry I ever bought this book.
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on August 14, 2012
Had high hopes for this book but story was mediocre. Not bad just not exactly great. Takes way to long for anything to happen,main character backstory could have been much more interesting but instead is only hinted at. Pacing was an issue,could have been real creepy if author had explored the characters psychosis more. Should have been a short story,like the others included in this book which are much better,much more disturbing. Hard to recommend at current list price.
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