Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review of City of Heretics by Heath Lowrance (Snubnose Press, 2012)

Nearing his fiftieth birthday, Crowe has been released from prison and has headed back to Memphis.  Whilst inside the ‘Old Man’ has died, a more brutal leader has succeeded him, and the criminal landscape has changed.  The new leader might have ordered a hit on Crowe when he was in prison, but after the death of his wife to a religiously inspired serial killer he wants him to use his talents as an enforcer to exact revenge.  Crowe is prepared to oblige, but also has revenge in mind.  His plan, however, is violently derailed and he finds himself up against a radical Christian sect who have ‘rescued’ a set of serial killers to do ‘God’s work’.

The strengths of City of Heretics are the principle character of Crowe, the sense of context and place, and the general story arc and hardboiled nature.  Crowe is getting on in age, but is unwilling to hand in the towel, and despite not quite being as robust as he once was he has the wits and experience to hold his own.  And he’s not about to let pain and poor odds get in his way, despite being put up against his own past and a gaggle of serial killers loosely controlled by a religious group.  The narrative has a nice pace as it builds to bloody climax and I loved the closing couple of pages.  That said, it took a little while before the book clicked into place and I was firmly hooked in; I had a hard time buying the character of Rad; and I found the prose a little uneven at times, sparkling in some places and a little flat in others.  Admittedly, all minor stuff in the grand scheme of things.  Overall, an entertaining hardboiled tale that turns into a real page turner with an ending that makes me want to read the sequel, assuming one is in the pipeline.

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