By Bentley Little

Published by Cemetery Dance Publications, April 14, 2023

Review by Jeani Rector

Buy the book HERE


I have been reading Bentley Little novels for years, not only because he is, as Stephen King puts it: “the horror poet laureate,” but also because his novels are often quirky and absurd in a satisfying way. They are filled with both horror and satire. DMV is no exception.

Who doesn’t hate the DMV? Who hasn’t stood in long lines even after taking a number, and worse, even after making an appointment over the phone? Who hasn’t waited in those lines only to be told you are at the wrong window? Who hasn’t been forced to display a driver’s license that has an abhorrently unflattering photo?

That is why I cheered when I found out that Bentley Little’s latest villain is the DMV. While this novel tends toward sarcasm, it is easy to imagine that these things really could happen due to the negative emotions that people often feel towards this burdensome, heavily inconvenient and ponderous government agency.

The novel centers around three groups of main characters: successful writer Todd Klein and his wife Rosita, Jorge Guiterrez, Rosita’s impulsive younger brother, and Zal Tombasian, a young programmer at Data Initiatives. What these seemingly random people have in common is—you guessed it—interactions with the DMV. Except sometimes the characters didn’t even have to go to a DMV office…sometimes the DMV came to them.

The novel begins when Todd Klein wants to renew his license. He takes a driving test, and the instructor Cliff seems familiar. Suddenly Todd realizes that Cliff seems to be the same driving instructor he had during his first test...at age 16. Yet Cliff doesn’t seem to have aged, although he has the same meanness he used to have. And this is just the beginning of odd things that turn out not to be coincidences. What originally just seems odd soon turns sinister and the horror begins.

All of the characters have depth and Little successfully creates an atmosphere of paranoia turning into an unhappy and dangerous reality. He takes normal people and thrusts them into abnormal situations. I suspect that Little creates some his characters based upon parts of himself (specifically Todd Klein) which only adds to the realism.

Behind the scenes, the DMV is a clandestine agency that is not what it seems and actually dates back to ancient Rome. It is all-seeing and all-knowing. Even though this book is written with sarcasm, you can’t help but ask yourself: What really is the DMV? Little’s portrayal is done so well that its possibilities nag at you. I felt the characters’ discomfort and distress—and yes, fear—as they attempt to navigate the unnavigable.

DMV is horror all right, but it also contains humor. The beginning is a slow burn of getting to know the characters, but once the action picks up, it becomes an intense thrill ride of horrible things happening to nice people. I quickly turned the pages with the feeling that I was rubber-necking an accident on the side of the road; I was compelled to read and couldn’t turn away. Little writes with his own brand of skill and adeptness that is unique only to him. If you add DMV to your library, your library will be greatly improved. Highly recommended.