Pacy American Crime-Horror – a relentless page-turner
A ten-year old boy - Rainey Teague - disappears in broad daylight. One minute he’s looking at a mirror in the Niceville pawn shop window, the next he vanishes. Nick Kavanaugh, a Clint Eastwood type detective, is assigned the case. In the days that follows there are no sightings, and Rainey’s family begin to lose hope, but then he found buried alive in an old crypt. Once rescued, he falls into a coma and there is no telling when, or if, he would ever wake up.
One year on, with the boy still comatose, the case is still unsolved; Rainey’s parents die mysteriously, and then another two elderly people disappear. Once Nick begins to dig back through the town’s history, it is clear that Niceville has a much higher than average number of stranger abductions. All unexplained and unresolved.
This is a key prelude to what follows next: a bank heist, and the shooting of four chasing policemen and a helicopter crew by a rogue cop. The interlinking of the robbers’ violent characters to the stranger abductions is skilfully portrayed in scenes of black humour.
It seems that Niceville is cursed by an evil spirit, all linking back to old family feuds that are still being re-enacted, and Nick is drawn deeper into an ‘outsider’ world as he carries out his dramatic (and frightening) investigation, in which his own life and that of his wife Kate are threatened.
Running concurrently are the actions of the robbers, each determined to stay alive to enjoy the bank proceeds – not an easy matter when they’re gunning for each other, and being betrayed (or manipulated) at every step. Nothing is what it seems, and there are a few delightful twists to their fates as the horror intensifies.
Carsten Stroud is a seasoned writer of many novels, and this story has a remarkable (and intricate) plot that crosses genres and sizzles throughout. The characters appear larger than life, and are hugely entertaining even though there are constant POV scene changes throughout – head-hopping is not my cup of tea.
Nevertheless I found it hugely captivating until near the end, when some strands to the story appeared disappointingly contrived and rushed through, leaving a few unresolved threads - as though a print deadline was looming. Pity – although there is one frightening conclusion affecting Nick and Kate, and it does leave room for a sequel.
Probably one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure to read in 2012 - the freshness of the black humour alone is worth the outlay. Highly recommended – buy it and enjoy.