Rainey Teague disappears on his way home from school, literally vanishing into thin air. He’s there one moment and gone the next, captured on security cameras. After he is found, the nightmare only gets deeper, especially for detective Nick Kavanaugh and his wife, Kate, a family practice lawyer. They have all been drawn into a shadow world between life and death–a world where a man killed on Friday night is in a duel on Sunday, where an armed robbery triggers a disastrous cascade of events that ricochets across twenty different lives, and where Nick and Kate will come face to face with the ancient force of anger and evil that lurks beneath Niceville.
I picked this up from the library because the cover (pictured above) was really evocative and I knew nothing about Carsten Stroud before reading this. It’s a fantastic blend of Tim Dorsey, Peter Straub and Neil Gaiman as it slowly builds into a cheerfully vicious, funny book that moves at a breakneck pace, with a cast of characters who are oftentimes ghastly human beings but relatable and interesting. Despite the multiple viewpoint chapters, the book never loses focus and we get a sense of just how deep the problems in Niceville go.
The supernatural element is evocative, mysterious and has a palpable menace to the scenes which contrasts and heightens the crime elements. Certainly, it was an unexpected masterclass in writing to thrill. I love it when that happens, and it’s part of why I love reading so much. The means to be surprised and all of it available for next to nothing, or at least really cheap. Normally, I sigh with despair when a book ends with further volumes but I am excited to see what happens in the next book.
Stroud has an engaging tone, he reminds me of Elmore Leonard in how he manages to make awful people feel warm and empathetic to the reader. He writes harsh, vicious violent sequences and then manages to show the love and concern that some of these people have for one another. No one is an idiot and even the idiots have enjoyably realistic motivations for their actions. It ends on a promise that things are going to get worse for the good (and bad) people of Niceville.
I will keep you posted.