Why are most of the best horror titles out of print, [darnit]? Well, knowing the publishing world, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but it still makes me mad. Anyway, this title deserves a wider audience. This is a fun, sick little debut... although 'little' isn't quite a fair description; though the novel clocks in at 249 pages or so, it's a large trade PB with a nice high word count on each page. I didn't know much going into reading this book other than the fact that 1. it was supposed to be disgusting and 2. it involved real estate and crows in some manner. Part of the fun was not knowing much, because I had no idea where things were going (except that people were probably going to die) and was constantly surprised. Even if I knew more about the plot, I doubt I could have second-guessed the author.
A land developer decides to develop some land in the small town of Selden Falls. As the book opens, he's taking a look around his prospective project-- he plans a plaza with a food court-- and sees a creepy, ugly, vaguely obscene old church in plain sight of where the plaza will be built. He decides it's an eyesore and that it should be destroyed, fast. The town has a city council meeting, and though an amateur psychic senses that destroying the church without a proper ritual could unleash a huge, possibly dangerous spiritual backlash, the town needs the money and votes to raze the old building. Big mistake, big BIG mistake. Slowly, a disgusting and very contagious infection begins to spread (warning: do not read while eating, unless you have a very strong stomach or want to diet).
The book has a fairly large cast of characters--the greedy land developer with some very ugly vices and his much more likable assistant, Nelson, the lazy local cop, Jasper and his delinquent son, the owner of the construction company working on the project and his wife (with a mother-in-law reminiscent of 'Mum' in Peter Jackson's Dead Alive), a disgruntled ex-employee of the land developer, and a very large number of malignant crows. I had no idea who would turn out to be the hero/s, who would turn out to be evil, and who would die, but I tried to guess. I was surprised at every turn- as I said, this author is almost impossible to second guess. I'd warn you not to get too attached to any of the characters, but they're so well written, it's hard not to get attached. However, some characters that you care about will not make it (I found myself cursing out loud while reading the novel at least twice in disappointment when I realized a certain person was not going to survive). I'd tell you who fights the evil and who becomes part of it, but of course, plenty of fun lies in the fact that you'll be surprised at every turn. I would think, "Oh! Well, that's the end of *that* character", only to have them show up again in some hideous way... or be relieved that they were spared a little longer.
This author can definitely write. I was reminded most strongly of the humor and style of Edward Lee. Though not *quite* as revolting, I was similarly caught up in the action enough to make me read the second half of the book straight through (my copy has water damage from reading it in the bathtub, for Godssake) and also found myself smiling (though the humor is dark- but that's never been a problem for most horror fans) as many times as my jaw dropped. Without giving too much away, get ready for the ending to jump out and slap you in the face (similar to the style of Jack Ketchum and Ray Garton). I have no complaints- the book is a little slow to get going, but trust me, it's worth it, and it's well written enough so you enjoy the whole ride. If you're looking for a fun, sick read with several satisfying payoffs, this book-- and this author-- are definitely worth discovering. I'll be keeping an eye out for his next one.