The story focuses on three friends, men in their late thirties, who have just learned that a fourth friend recently committed suicide. The four had been friends since early childhood and the death understandably shakes them up. The remaining three, Alan, Donald, and Rick, begin working together to figure out why their friend unexpectedly took his own life. The impetus for their investigation is a suicide tape left by Bernard where he details the trio’s strengths and weaknesses and hints at his “other side”. The postmortem tape is quite brutal in its honesty and taunts the men even further to review their lives, and the secret life led by Bernard. The long and short of Bernard’s life (and these are not spoilers) is this: in his teens Bernard was introduced to and became fascinated with evil rituals of a satanic nature – and began stalking and killing women.
The entire narrative is told through the first person from Alan’s perspective. He is a flawed character who constantly is reexamining his past and the past of his friends looking for clues, cause, and fault for the horrifying outcomes. Alan’s recounting of family and relationship history plays a huge role in the story, and much of the action takes place within Alan’s mind as he analyzes and ruminates about everything from what is happening at the moment to the experiences and interactions of the men when they were boys. This is not to say there aren’t intense and frightening scenes. There certainly are, and they are routinely unnerving. Mr. Gifune casts these passages in such a way that the reader is kept on edge (at least I was), and constantly assessing the flow of the narrative. As a result, the horror is kept fresh and unpredictable and nothing comes across as rote.
This type of storytelling may not be everyone’s cup of tea – you don’t get a neat and tidy explanation or conclusion. This is fine with me – something to ponder after the book is done is a huge bonus. The Bleeding Season delivers big time.