Kelland by Paul G. Bens Jr.


by Paul G. Bens Jr.
Casperian Books
Length: 250 Pages
Characters: Toan, Minh, Melanie, Gareth, George, Father Swinton and Kelland
POV: Third person
Setting: Kentucky and California
Genre: Horror, Psychological thriller
Book Cover Rating: 4

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When the Truth Is All That Matters

The truth begins with a family evacuated from Saigon during the final days of the Viet Nam War. Or perhaps it begins later, with a devoutly Catholic child with the voice of an angel who is troubled by visions both sacred and profane. Or perhaps later still, with a couple drifting apart following a tragedy.

Kelland appears to them all in the guise of a small boy, a lover, a priest…Kelland is an enigma, a puzzle, and an almost imperceptible presence. Kelland is violence, sorrow, and joy. Kelland is the common thread tying five disparate strangers together.

Black Quill Award Winner

Best Small Press Chill
(Editors’ Choice)


Kelland is the powerfully moving tale of the ultimate betrayal of trust and innocence. It is haunting in its imagery and frightening in its candor. It is topical, it is relevant, and it is a story that insinuates itself into the psyche of the reader who is fortunate enough to experience it.

The story opens during the fall of Saigon in 1975, when the sea of humanity swelled toward the remaining few American troops left in Vietnam, each yearning to be airlifted from what was left of their shelled out existences. Toan and Minh are brothers who, along with their parents, are whisked onto a helicopter and eventually make their way to America where they carve out a new life aided by the charity of the Catholic Church. Toan and Minh follow diverging paths on their way to the American dream, each suffering a painful deception at the hands of someone they trusted which ultimately tears them apart.

Told in both a linear and non-linear narrative, which may seem incongruous but works beautifully in this piece, the reader is subsequently introduced to a body of characters whose lives, at first glance, appear to have absolutely no common thread to them.

George is a 9 year old boy with a secret passion for his Christ, whose dream it is to one day become a priest. With the voice of an angel and the rapture of his faith, young George is consummately pious and devout. George is a lamb in the flock of his congregation whose devotion and obedience to God leaves him vulnerable to a predator who culls him from the herd.

Melanie and Gareth are the parents of a teenage son, Lucas, who harbors a darkly destructive secret of his own. Lucas is indirectly introduced to the reader through a series of letters he writes to the mysterious “A”. Through the letters, it becomes evident that Lucas is a deeply disturbed young man who is having a difficult time adjusting to his new home and who yearns for the attention from “A” that is being denied him. Melanie and Gareth are unaware of both Lucas’ relationship and his growing depression, and tragedy eventually befalls their family.

As the story follows the lives and histories of these characters, Kelland becomes a common link that binds them together. Kelland is an enigma. Kelland is a representation of temptation, strength, weakness, and the forbidden who infiltrates the dead spaces where evil has left its stigmata. Kelland preys on the needs of each character encountered, and the reader is left to wonder on which side of good and evil Kelland falls. What seems certain is that Kelland is whomever each person needs at any given moment. Kelland is the representation of the shadows of the mind and soul which torments a devastating revelation from each victim. Kelland is a harbinger of painful truths and secrets that will ultimately destroy some and set others free.

When the tale comes to its climax and the reader begins to unravel the mystery of the ties that bind this diverse group of people, the horror manifests itself, not in the form of the metaphysical monsters that are born in our imaginations; rather the monster materializes in human form, shrouded in a cloak of reverence. Whether directly or indirectly affected, the torment shared by these characters is a shot of emotional Novocain that deadens the ability to live fully and robs each one of their security and innocence.

Kelland is a story eloquently told. Its characters are infinitely sympathetic, its malevolence is entirely unequivocal, and its themes are equally horrifying and horrific. This is a book that deals with very delicate issues in a brutally honest and perceptive manner. It is a story that permeates the mind and envelops the conscience and is one that each reader will take something away from at its end.

Reviewer: Lisa

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