Encore: A Contemporary Love Story of Hypnotic Abduction
by Tantra Bensko
Insubordinate Books

"What a nauseating motto, at the top of every book on the back cover in sickening Pepto Bismol pink: “Just be yourself!” God, I’d rather die."

Novelist Bensko weaves elements of history, myth, political intrigue, psychology, magic, cultism, religion, and romance into a tight tapestry of contemporary Gothic storytelling that has the reader as entranced as the novel’s protagonist. The plot centers around an avant-garde theater troupe and its resident hypnotist, Dune Thornley. Thornley has made the troupe and its star performer—his wife, Susan—famous for their performances centered around British myths that incorporate the gem, moldavite. In preparation for each performance, Susan’s understudy, Miriam Reynolds, possessing a close resemblance to Susan, undergoes Dune’s hypnotic entreaty. Dune has taught Miriam to take in his wife’s essence—to essentially become Susan on stage. At the season’s final show, Susan is missing, and Miriam takes her place on stage. Before Miriam is released from Dune’s suggestive spell, he abducts her and rushes her away to an ancient castle. With each passing day, the reader becomes aware that Dune has much more in store for Miriam than life as a replacement for his wife.

Bensko’s novel is a deliciously dark read. From the description of Miriam’s post-abduction ride to her captivity in the castle, one is reminded of such Gothic treasures as Rebecca and Wuthering Heights. As Dune’s deception continues, and the reader is given a deeper glimpse into his psyche, it isn’t hard to imagine Charles Boyer creeping around in Gaslight as he tries to untether Ingrid Bergman’s grip on reality. But this novel is no knockoff. It is a unique and exceptional example of what Gothic literature should offer the reader: the elevated heartbeat, the sharp inhale of breath, the chill up the spine. These are what all fans of the genre seek. Bensko’s talent to deliver these thrills oozes down every dark and dreary hallway she leads the reader.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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