The Effigy by James West

★★★★  In James West’s ‘The Effigy,’ a young couple contends with the stress of raising a family while strapped for cash—and in the shadows, a killer stalks their every move. The story follows Lisa Treatorn and her boyfriend (known only as “the Killer Cook”) as they go about their daily routines in the small American town where they live together. Shockingly, a man with whom Lisa has just interviewed for a position is found murdered one day, catching the couple up in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Hand-drawn images accompany the text, aiding and, in places, adding to the overall feeling of terror that haunts this text.

This might seem like something one would normally say just for the effect, but ‘The Effigy’ is a book that must be read to be truly experienced. There is such a strong sense of emotion emanating from the images found here: some ethereal, and some just downright grotesque. And yet the macabre quality of these illustrations is never quite enough to draw one out of the story and put the book down. Rather, it creates nearly a sense of compulsion, asking readers to ponder what it all means and challenging them to draw connections between the art and the author. While ‘The Effigy’ is at times so cerebral that it is difficult to comprehend the meaning of the text, there is certainly something to be said about the exceptional treatment it gives to common family-related fears, like earning enough money to support one’s family and having a first child. In this regard, it is truly unique.

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