Book Reviews

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The Face of Fear reintroduces Ghost Face to the world, and you'll never think of him (or her... or them...) in the same way again...
The mystery isn't just in who's behind the mask but why. Torbert gives readers all the pieces to the puzzle, though putting them together is another story...
Equal parts horror & heart, The Face of Fear draws readers in with its complex characters and chilling plot only to prove that nobody is safe or above suspicion. With The Face of Fear Ghost Face makes the transition from screen to page, proving that true terror is found between the lines...

- Hartford Books Examiner

A Chilling Tale Set Nearby

Book review by Effie Speyer

As seen in Boating Times Long Island

In his debut novel, The Face of Fear: A Powers and Johnson Novel, R.J. Torbert utilizes the infamous ghost mask from the Scream movie franchise. That’s not all that’s instantly recognizable, however — the location for this murder mystery is set in the village of Port Jefferson, New York, an area known to locals and visitors alike.

The story begins with a kidnapping on the ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport. When a string of murders occur that are connected to the case, no one is above suspicion. Residents of Port Jefferson, the Suffolk County Police, and the FBI are all suspects!

While the FBI feels mounting pressure from the media to solve the murders, killings attributed to the “The Ghost Face Murderer” continue. It seems as though locals and officials alike have some link to the crimes committed, keeping readers wondering about motive behind the murders.

Torbert’s writing had me convinced that I had solved the mystery, only to reveal another piece of information to refute my theory, sending me back to analyze the clues again. The Face of Fear is a suspenseful page-turner, enhanced by how the author seamlessly weaves fictional characters with real residents and establishments. This intermingling makes the horror seem all too real — and too close to my home!

Amidst the spine-chilling tensions are two budding love stories involving Detectives Powers and Johnson, the lead officials investigating The Ghost Face Murderer. But the story never veers far from the gruesome killings. The mask the murderer uses to hide his identity even comes from the apartment of one of the detectives!

I recommend The Face of Fear to every reader, as it has something for everyone — crime, murder, romance, humor, and history, all happening in one of Long Island’s prettiest port towns.

Reviewed by Denise Stern for Readers' Favorite

The Face of Fear, authored by R.J. Torbert, introduces the character of Ghost Face in Long Island, New York. The story mainly revolves around the perspectives of two detectives dealing with public fear and pressure to resolve a kidnapping. This incident occurred on the Cross Island Ferry and ultimately leads them into a hunt for a killer. The novel intertwines the private as well as public personas and lives of the detectives, supporting characters, and of course, a sadistic nemesis that threatens the safety and security of Long Island residents. The steady progression of the plot creates an increasing crescendo of suspense for the reader, inexorably drawn into a cat and mouse game that takes place in the village of Port Jefferson. Yet in the end, nothing is as it seems…

Author R.J. Torbert has created a novel that not only explores the concept of good and evil, with characters on either side of that spectrum, but also the human psyche, emotions, and behaviors of not only the protagonists, but the ultimate antagonist. While the novel's content may not appeal to everyone, The Face of Fear introduces a high level of suspense and drama. Some structural issues may be distracting to some readers, as can sometimes choppy dialogue and narrative, but overall, the plot is well developed and shows a steady progress of development. Rendered with a sinister and scary antagonist, one capable of giving the reader the creeps, R.J. Torbert has done himself proud in the introduction of such a character to the reading public.

Interview with the Hartford Books Examiner

R.J.: I decided mid-2009 that I wanted to bring Ghost Face® back. At the time, I had no idea that Scream 4 was a thought in anyone’s mind. I had discussions with Stanley Geller and Alan Geller that I had a storyline in place. Why not? I thought. I didn’t think it should have been the end for Ghost Face® but it was approaching ten years since Scream 3 was released and I felt I would give it a try.

When I was notified from Wes Craven in 2010 that Scream 4 would happen, I was 100% behind that and I put the book on hold even though I was halfway through it. Besides, I didn’t want any other distractions going on during the filming or during its release. When the movie ran its course, I still wasn’t sure about finishing the book but the support of my friends and family encouraged me to finish my dream which was to write a novel. The Twitter followers have been terrific so I wanted them to be the first to know. As they are aware, my cryptic messages have a double meaning. First, it was done to keep interest in Ghost Face® and second, the novel involves cryptic messages on Twitter. They will have more of a connection to the book than the average reader because of the things I have written over the past year. It’s important to note that this is a police murder mystery that involves the Ghost Face® mask and has no connection to the Scream franchise. Remember, Ghost Face® is licensed to Dimension and others should FunWorld decide to license it. I believe this is a good story and I hope the Scream fans read it with an open mind that Ghost Face® can show up anytime and any place. Many hours of research regarding police protocol was done. I believe now that Scream 4 was released almost two years ago, that now is a good time for this story to come out.

HBE: Did Wes Craven know you were working on a story?

R.J.: Yes, he did, in fact, when Scream 4 was announced he said to let him know if I had any thoughts about it. Since I didn’t think I would continue my dream of finishing the book, I sent him the summary of the book I was working on.

HBE: What was his reaction?

R.J.: Part of his reaction is in the acknowledgements. However, the book has not come up for quite a while in the communication we have had over the last couple of years. I’m not the type to keep bringing up something unless it’s a 100% certainty, we are there now and I hope he enjoys it as well as others.

HBE: Where did you possibly find the time to do this with the demanding job you have which includes world travel?

R.J.: I spent ten months of Saturdays and Sundays writing at the library with a few nights here and there during the week. Then almost two years of working with the editor and publisher. My wife was extremely patient with me during this period. It was important to me to have a story that would attract people not familiar with the Scream franchise but to put in “little things” in the story that Ghost Face® followers would recognize and appreciate.

HBE: So there is no connection to Scream or it’s characters?

R.J.: Scream is Scream. That’s their story and no one has more respect and appreciation to Wes Craven and his people more than I do. This is A Powers and Johnson Novel: The Face of Fear.

HBE: Can you give us a little idea of what this is about?

R.J.: This is the story of a kidnapping that occurs on the Ferry in the Village of Port Jefferson. The two lead characters, Powers and Johnson, are detectives who soon find out, it is not so cut and dry. Their job becomes complicated when Ghost Face® becomes involved and how these two detectives, who are very different want to handle the case. It becomes even more complicated when the case involves their personal lives. Twitter has a role in the story which is why I continued to send out messages. There is a meaning to them.

HBE: You let Billy @Busted815 make the first public announcement on the book. How did you come up with that?

R.J.: Well, first, I do appreciate the support from Twitter followers and felt someone should have a “connection” to the book. His mother contacted me and asked me if I had any thoughts for his 21st birthday in December. After thinking about it, I thought it would give him a nice memory to make the announcement. I also appreciated the way his mother wanted to do something for her son. In the story, there is something written from one of the detectives to his mother who had passed away. Part of it is used on the back of the greeting card, some including you, have received as well as the publicity posters at ZPita Restaurant.

HBE: Is there a meaning to the blood splatter on the Ghost Face® mask on the cover and that creepy looking mask on the back?

R.J.: Yes, but you will have to read the book to understand it. The front and back cover was designed by Jason Lash who worked closely with me on the jacket design. The Zombie Cryptic mask on the back was designed by a talented designer named Frank McGovern while of course most know Alan Geller is responsible for the creation of the mask now known as Ghost Face®.

HBE: Good Luck and as usual any last message to us?

R.J.: Who do you love?