Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Killing Moon

The remainder bins at the big chain bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble are always worth scouring. After all, how loudly can you complain when you've only paid $3.99 for a book?

I'd never heard of Chuck Hogan, but based on the cover of "The Killing Moon" alone, figured that it was worth shelling out the $3.99. And it was well worth it, because "The Killing Moon" is an excellent thriller/mystery in the classic "nothing is quite as it seems" mode. In no time at all, Hogan establishes more than a half dozen key characters, and then moves the story forward by devoting each chapter to the point of view of one of those characters. Hogan also sets the tone right away - the small town of Black Falls, Massachusetts could just as well be Twin Peaks; everyone is just a bit south of the mainstream, and strange things are happening in the woods at night.

The town's prodigal son, Don Maddox, has returned for his mother's funeral, and stayed on to become a part-time member of the town's police force. That makes no sense to anyone, including the corrupt head of the force, and as the story of the novel unfolds, the secrets of Maddox' past, and the reasons for his return, are revealed. He is clearly on a quest, but also must deal with the dead bodies that keep popping up around town. And it doesn't help that no one seems to want him to stay.

If the book has any weakness, it's that the climax isn't quite up to the set-up, but even with that it remains exciting and well executed. All in all, it feels like a book of promise, and I hope that Hogan achieves enough success to be able to build on the best parts of "The Killing Moon."

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