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Long Road to Phoenix Kindle Edition
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Thomas Marks is a drunk, and finds himself in debt to the wrong people. Then, a strange young boy with an adult's measure of wisdom walks into his life with the money Thomas needs - and a favor in return: drive him across the country transporting a jar of his brother's ashes. The supernatural elements begin to kick in from there, as the loan shark that was after him is suddenly possessed by a demonic force that will stop at nothing (and seemingly, can be stopped by nothing) to get to the boy and his jar.
Through what follows, Thomas learns a few facts about life that he had managed to willfully forget, and finds a good (or at least better) version of himself buried somewhere within.
Author Sam Best manages to weave a compelling tale filled with likable and relatable characters while keeping a story filled with spiritual themes from becoming too predictable or hokey. In fact, the novel is downright brutal at points, another factor that reminded me in ways of Stephen King's work. King, and now Best, have a knack for painting a picture of a spiritual evil that is absolutely merciless. Sometimes uncomfortably so, but in a way that feels "realistic" somehow.
All this comparison to King is not to say that Best doesn't have his own voice. He clearly does. There is a sly, sometimes delightfully sarcastic voice peaking out of the narrative from time to time that gives the story an added dimension. For a first novel, I'm extremely impressed by the characterization and description that he manages to paint for us.
The book is a quick read, and the perfect page turner for a long weekend or a trip, and I recommend it highly to any fans of the supernatural thriller genre. It's really too bad it's not yet available in paperback form. It's just the sort of book that would be a joy to pop in a backpack, or find on the shelf a couple years from now, spine worn out and pages bursting outward from days of using a table as a book mark. However, the Kindle version does the job nicely.
Written into the center of this drama is Will an enigmatic young boy planted squarely in the "good" camp. Will is joined by his reluctant companion Thomas Marks who is less sure of his loyalties . What follows is an unpredictable yet very satisfying account of an isolated battle in a larger war for the soul of creation.
Make no mistake, the presence of a young boy as one of the leading actors in no way makes this novel an attempt to pander to younger readers (although I believe many may appreciate it). No, the many settings are so delightfully detailed, and the observations of the human condition are so mature and insightful that this story will not be found wanting by seasoned readers of the genre. I found myself forgetting that this is Mr. Bests first full length novel.
Having enjoyed this authors previous three short stories, I certainly was not let down by this full length effort. My favorite character was Danilov, a starkly wicked and ever-present menace delightfully painted with the darkest brooding colors. Pick this book up and see if you don't agree.
The mobster, who leaves corpses in his wake, and is after Thomas becomes possessed by a supernatural force. The excitement notches up when Thomas has to choose between saving his own life or giving up the boy and the ashes. You will have to read this novel to find out for yourself what happens.
The author has a great way of describing the settings, the dialogue is powerful, and it is a well-written novel. Ashes is definitely an interesting read.
Jeannie Walker- Award-Winning Author of "Fighting the Devil" - A True Story of Consuming Passion, Deadly Poison, and Murder