Don’t Fear The Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones

Don’t Fear The Reaper is the sequel to Stephen Graham Jones’s My Heart Is A Chainsaw, picking up four years after the events of the first book. Jade Daniels, now going by Jennifer, has been released from prison after what happened in the town of Proofrock previously, but unfortunately this is timed with an even more memorable sequence of events for the town, as serial killer Dark Mill South escapes his prison convoy and ends up in Proofrock. Jade has sworn off her slasher-film-obsessed past, but the deaths seem to be reminding her of something, and with her remaining allies in the town, she must fight through snow and blood to work out who is the final girl this time.

I enjoyed My Heart Is A Chainsaw, with its distinctive combination of horror film obsession and dark realities, so I was excited to read Don’t Fear The Reaper. Stephen Graham Jones has such a distinctive writing style, which occasionally I get lost in, but I found this one easier to orient myself even, even with a range of perspectives. At its core, the plot is fun and clever, playing with horror tropes as should be expected from a book series with a protagonist who overthinks them all, but also a bloody slasher story, with a lot of dead teenagers and some gory moments.

This one focuses less on Jade’s emotional wellbeing than the first, but shows her attempts to throw off her past and then realising that she still needs to harness who she was as well as who she now is. Unlike her loner self from the first book, by this point you can see the connections she has with people (it’s deeply sad that she believes that Letha is only her secret best friend, as if she doesn’t even want to admit that), but this all comes through the reality of her being in prison for some of the killing from the previous book for multiple years. 

What Stephen Graham Jones manages to do is create a horror sequel that really does engage with the aftermath of the first one and how behind the slasher tropes, there’s a likelihood that the hero still gets in trouble. This is stylistic horror with notable writing (it flows better for me than the first, maybe because it isn’t punctuated by Jade’s essays on slasher films this time) and a classic plotline of short time frame, bad weather, and lots of dead bodies.