Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: Lee Mather's First Kiss, Last Breath

Through my author friend Jake Elliot, I've been fortunate to meet (in the social networking sense) some great authors who allow me the privilege of reviewing their works.  Lee Mather is an example of such; in exchange for a fair and unbiased review, Lee sent me an e-copy of his latest work, First Kiss, Last Breath. 

Picture procured from the Lyrical Press site

First Kiss, Last Breath centers around a young man named Andy, an artist at heart who is failing his way though his A level of college.  He's lost his parents and lives with his grandfather.  Andy spent his childhood plagued by bullies, and now believes himself to be plagued with a demon named Glib, who (as demons are wont to do) wrecks havoc and horror at every turn.  Andy struggles to overcome his demons (be they physical or mental), some nasty family issues, and his shyness around the girl of his dreams in order to finally get his first kiss.

Writing that paragraph without giving away too many spoilers was a pleasurable struggle.  Mather has constructed (for 90% of the novel at least) a very tightly wound plot.  Not a word is wasted, every sentence lends credence to the next.  If life had allowed I would have read the entire thing in one setting, a feeling I don't get often. 

The first comparison that came to mind as I read First Kiss, Last Breath was the Hitchcock-ian masterpiece Psycho.  What we see on the surface is a kind, loving grandfather providing for his grandson, it's clear that there's something more, something much darker going on.  I was also reminded of classic Stephen King - The Shining, Christine, and the like.  I literally couldn't wait to turn (well, swipe) the page and discover what darkness lurked therein. 

I easily identified with Andy, having felt like a complete loner at many times in my life.  When Andy questions whether the madness in his life is real or just in his head, the tone of the writing rings true.  The reader wonders, along with Andy, whether all the chaos could be solved by just making sure he takes his Prozac. 

When the novel races toward its climax, it seems that Mather forces his way to the ending he wanted.  The writing is still crisp, but I feel that the author could have allowed himself a few more pages to really develop the climax.  Andy seems to jump from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye.  His actions are justified, it just felt a little forced.  Mather spent so much time building tone and tension throughout the rest of the work, I wish he had spent a little more time exploring Andy's emotions and feelings  in the moment.  

Mather packs a lot into a slim 100 pages, and it packs a powerful punch.  I think that First Kiss, Last Breath could be a huge hit in the YA market; which in this day and age isn't restricted to teen readers. I'd recommend Mather's work to any fan of classic suspense.

Lee Mather was also featured in the recently released horror anthology Fading Light. His short story, "Wrath" features a father, David,  desperately trying to keep his family safe and intact in the face of an unthinkable apocalypse.  The reader empathizes with David as he experiences a horror no father should face.  The story was one that stuck with me long after I read the anthology as a whole.  One should note that the tone and level of gore are more adult than that featured in First Kiss, Last Breath, as the Fading Light anthology is written for a mature audience.  You can find my review for the anthology as a whole here: 

You can find Lee Mather's blog here:
and his Goodreads page here:

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