Terror in My Arms, a Fast-Paced Psychological Thriller by John T. Cullen

Bottom Line: A fast-paced novella that will appeal to fans of serial killer fiction looking for a quick fix.

Set in the decade before dating apps, social media and the #metoo movement changed romantic relationships forever, Terror in My Arms begins as attractive San Diego software engineer Sylvie Bancroft is propositioned by stranger Rob Turlock. He presents her with a bouquet of flowers and says, “I took the liberty of buying these so I could learn why you look so utterly radiant.”

Sylvie is put off by the cheezy come-on, but he persists: “I won’t take no for an answer.” For the gifted software engineer who has been called beautiful just once or twice in her entire life, and is too honest for her own good, that’s about all it takes for him to get her phone number. Sylvie’s whirlwind romance with the seemingly wealthy stranger lasts about a week before a suspicious break-in at her condo sets off alarm bells. Her awakening comes as she’s spending the night at his mansion, and wakes to the sound of Rob digging a grave in the lawn.

Terror in my Arms follows a classic horror story structure, where the predator and prey are evident from the get-go. The story’s primary suspense comes from Sylvie’s lapses in judgement and the thrill of the chase as she attempts to escape from the clutches of a serial killer. Something about the era – the story is set in the computer age, but before the comforting presence of a mobile phone, or even the Internet to background check her date – creates an added layer of vulnerability and adds to the intrigue. A reveal about Rob’s pattern reveals an ingenious scheme that will please fans of serial killer fiction.

At a brisk 69 pages, Terror in My Arms is perfect for a short flight.

terror in my arms

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