Title: Comfort Zone
Author: Stephen Bentley
Published on: 3 August 2020
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers (Psychological Thriller)
Comfort Zone by Stephen Bentley is a dark, gritty and gruesome story of a war veteran who succumbed to a monster called PTSD.
Phil Mercer, London’s fearless defender of the society’s less-fortunate, made a name for himself. He wasn’t bogged down by his friends’ jealousy. But that changed when Phil lost his wife, brother and mother within a gap of two years. Phil was at his lowest after losing his loved ones and that is when his mind started to play games. First he thought of the times when his friends betrayed him. Then came Vincent and his plan to kill those who hurt Phil.
Phil decides to host a dinner party for his friends. After a scrumptious meal of pork belly roast and wine, Phil introduces his friends to a game called Comfort Zone. Each participant is supposed to tell what scares them the most.
The story starts with a woman kidnapped and brutally murdered. A schizophrenic pervert is arrested for the murders (two more women were killed in a similar fashion). The story then points us to Phil and his ‘mind’ games.
Comfort Zone is sure to send shivers down your spine. The story is dark and intense but at the same time, stresses on the long-term effects of PTSD. the story depicts how a human mind can be trained, controlled to act as our worst enemy.
Phil spends a lot of time meticulously planning the murders of his friends, or should I say, betrayers? Then comes the dinner party and the denouement-like scenario. We also see flashbacks where Phil reminisces the times he spent in Afghanistan as a victim. There’s so much of action and adventure packed in this 130-page story; kudos to Stephen for coming up with a mind-blowing thriller!
The best part of the story is the scene proceeding the dinner party. I was like, wow, I did not expect this twist! The twist in the story throws the story in a whole new direction – we see the PTSD angle, torture and much more.
Comfort Zone is a fast-paced, bone-chilling, page-turner novella. I absolutely loved every bit of this story. I was hooked to the story from page 1. Brilliantly written, excellent pacing and well-developed characters, I highly recommend you to read Comfort Zone by Stephen Bentley.
EXCERPT FROM COMFORT ZONE
She heard the footsteps and guessed the guy was about ten yards behind her. It must be a man. They are too heavy for a woman. Another few hundred yards and she would reach safety – her garden flat home. I swear, no more drug runs for Ben Turner, she thought. This is too risky. Her heart pounded faster. She could hear it thumping in her chest until the sound of her panting blocked it out. She could smell aftershave. It wasn’t her cologne, nor was it her breathlessness she could now hear. Before the lights went out, she thought, Fuck you, Ben!
When she regained consciousness her first sensation was movement. I’m in the boot of a car. She was unable to see anything. I must be blindfolded. She tried to check for a blindfold but trying to move her arms was futile. Her hands were tied behind her back and she couldn’t move her legs as they too were bound. Then she felt a searing pain in the back of her head and lost consciousness once more.
Clueless as to time, she knew she was in a strange room. It stunk of urine. In the distance she heard the low rumble of motorway traffic. Her head still hurt, her eyes unable to pierce the gloom, but she could see shadows. The blindfold’s gone. On trying to move, she heard a scuffling noise and knew she was tied to a chair. She heard a door open but was unable to see in the dark. Then she heard footsteps walking away and heard a second door open. A few moments later, a car engine started and the headlamp beams flooded both doorways and the room with bright light, penetrating the darkness. She was forced to shield her eyes from the light by tilting her head to the side, averting her gaze. Curiosity taking over, she scrunched her eyes and made out the figure of a man in front of her. A man dressed in black, wearing a ski-mask. He held a long knife in front of him. He cut the tape across her mouth before running the blade down her cheek. She felt the blood as it ran to the corner of her mouth, giving her the metallic taste of her own blood.
“Who are you?” she asked in panic. “Is this about the drugs? Here, have them.”
Removing his mask, the man in black said nothing.