Review: ‘The Weight of this World’ by David Joy

WeightThe Weight of this World by David Joy
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (March 2017)

In his astounding sophomore novel, The Weight of This World, David Joy once again explores the rough reality of life in the North Carolina mountains. Rather than center blame for his characters’ hardships on the usual suspects—environment, isolation, lack of opportunity—he focuses squarely on their own weaknesses; in particular, their inability to make good decisions. Continue reading

Review: ‘Coco Butternut’ by Joe R. Lansdale

coco_butternut_by_joe_r_lansdaleCoco Butternut by Joe R. Lansdale
Subterranean Press (January 2017)

Coco Butternut is a show dog—a dachshund, to be exact. Also, she’s dead. And missing.

If you’ve read any of Joe R. Lansdale’s “Hap and Leonard” books, you’re reading that first paragraph and thinking, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” If you’re unfamiliar with the series, this novella from Subterranean Press will serve as a nice introduction, showcasing the many facets Lansdale works into each entry: the dark, often laugh-out-loud humor; the unflinching examination of the evil that humanity is capable of; and, at the core of it all, the brotherly bond shared by the two lead characters. Continue reading

Review: ‘Zombie Gold’ by John L. Lansdale

jack6.000x9.000.inddZombie Gold by John L. Lansdale
SST Publications (August 2016)

Working as a hand on his guardians’ ranch is an okay job as far as Chris Bain is concerned, but what he really wants to do is ride in the rodeo. Will Littlefield, part of a group of college kids hired on as extra help, has some experience doing just that. The two immediately bond over their passion for riding giant, powerful animals that don’t want to be ridden, sparking a friendship that’s soon to be strengthened through some very unusual circumstances. Continue reading

Review: ‘Last Fair Deal Gone Down’ by Ace Atkins and Marco Finnegan

LastFairDealGoneDownLast Fair Deal Gone Down by Ace Atkins and Marco Finnegan
12-Gauge Comics (May 2016)

Nick Travers’ musician friend Fats is dead, and his saxophone—a vintage 1940s beauty—is missing. Determined to honor the memory of his late friend the only way he knows how, Travers sets out through the rain-soaked streets of New Orleans to recover the sax.

The plot of Last Fair Deal Gone Down, adapted from the short story of the same name by Ace Atkins, doesn’t get much more complicated than that, leaving Atkins and artist Marco Finnegan plenty of room to revel in the seedy Crescent City atmosphere.  Continue reading

Review: ‘Slow Burn’ by Ace Atkins

SlowBurnCoverSlow Burn by Ace Atkins
G. P. Putnam’s Sons (May 3, 2016)

Boston is burning, one abandoned building at a time.

It is a year after the fire that consumed the empty shell that was once the Holy Innocents church – a fire that resulted in the deaths of three Boston firefighters. Those deaths still haunt Jack McGee, a fellow firefighter who has grown increasingly frustrated with his own department’s investigation into the incident. So frustrated, in fact, that he does the near-unthinkable and reaches outside the firefighter family for help. The man he calls on is a P.I. named Spenser. Continue reading

Review: ‘Kill Switch’ by Jonathan Maberry

killswitchKill Switch by Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin’s Griffin (April 2016)

If I laid out the entire plot of Kill Switch, the eighth book in Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, it would read like a synopsis of four or five books in two or three different genres. Most times, that would be a recipe for disaster, but Maberry somehow keeps all the balls in the air for over 500 pages, resulting in a satisfying thrill ride of a book.

Because I feel like I should offer some kind of synopsis, I’ll boil it down like so: Ledger and his crack team of operatives uncover a massive machine of mysterious intent at a remote military base in Antarctica – i.e., another day at the office for these guys. But things begin to diverge far from the norm as a hidden city and some giant penguin-like creatures come into play. Agents throughout the Department of Military Sciences (Ledger’s home turf), as well as agents of the CIA, FBI and other organizations, begin blowing assignments and, in some cases, committing outright acts of betrayal and treason. Strange power outtages in major American cities cause confusion and result in tragedy. Carefully constructed security measures are breached, allowing digital information and dangerous laboratory specimens to fall into the wrong hands. We learn that H.P. Lovecraft’s stories may be more fact than fiction. Meanwhile, a new prophet is emerging in the Middle East, and a child genius who may not be entirely human is constructing something called a God Machine. Continue reading

Review: ‘The Blood Strand’ by Chris Ould

Blood Strand_UK_cvrThe Blood Strand by Chris Ould
Titan Books (February 2016)

Chris Ould’s The Blood Strand is a solid start to a promised trilogy of novels set in the Faroes islands, a small, isolated community that’s just as complicated – and captivating – as the novel’s characters.

British police detective Jan Reyna was taken from the Faroes by his mother when he was just a child, and he’s never known why. Reyna returns when his estranged father falls ill, only to find his father has been implicated in a murder investigation. Evidence from that case points to blackmail, and the entire sordid affair begins to turn back in ever-tightening circles to include more members of Reyna’s family. Continue reading