Isaiah Coleridge is a former mob enforcer who has found new life as a private eye in a rural community. Over the course of two books he has transitioned from the world of a mobster to one of relative normality, generally speaking. He has an ex-military best friend who is also a paranoid drunk and sidekick in danger, a stable but not lucrative job as a detective, and most importantly a woman who he is in love with. Now he faces one of his strangest cases (and that’s saying something) as he is hired by a dirty, infamous ex-cop to investigate the supposed suicide of his brother-in-law. What seems initially to be very simple and very ordinary, turns out to not be so clean and clear, because each stone Coleridge overturns leads him further down a twisted path of corporate espionage and perhaps cultic behavior. He gathers no real evidence, but his instincts nag at him; something isn’t right here. And as he further explores the situation, he rips open the dark heart of the matter, and what is revealed is perhaps even more appalling than he suspected.
Laird Barron has developed quite a protagonist in Coleridge. If you’ve been following the series (three books in now), you’ve seen him change from confused and lonely hitter for the mob into a man that is learning to live in normal society without bruising everything he touches. Coleridge is in touch with his primal aspects, to say the least, and while that was highly beneficial for life as a mobster, it isn’t so much when it comes to regular relationships with regular people. It does, however, serve him well when it comes to his detective business. It’s almost as if he is drawn to the murkiest cases, the ones that will bring him the closest to death and deep trouble, because despite all of his recent civilizing, he still has those darker impulses. Coleridge is constantly brooding upon death and the corruption of the body. He feels it in his bones as he grows older; one of his hand’s now weaker and shaking at times, injuries that didn’t bother him in his youth now plaguing and dogging him as he sails into an unknown future of middle age existence. Combine this inner darkness with a fierce love for his female companion and her young son, and it seems he’s always in some sort of turmoil. He is a man with a foot in two worlds; one he is intimately familiar with and comfortable in, and another which calls to him with a siren’s song, but one in which he is utterly afraid of.
Each book in the series seems to ratchet up the ineffable. While never becoming outright supernatural, the high strangeness that flitters around on the fringes of everyday life makes itself more and more present with each tale in this series. What is reality is constantly debated. Are some of these things due to the power of magic rituals, of ghosts and the supernatural, or are they rooted in everyday, ordinary explanations, like hypnosis and mind control? In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because these forces are always frightening and threatening, and while the Coleridge series could never (so far) be called horror, the terror is still there, and it’s scary as hell. Fortunately, our protagonist is even scarier (so far), and he’s able to push the darkness back and keep it at bay, if only for a while. As he often ruminates, the darkness will win in the end.
Worse Angels is a great book. It’s dark, it’s mysterious, it’s scary, but most importantly, it is all these things within the context of being very human. Coleridge is a lived-in, breathed-in character, and he reflects many aspects of life the reader will be very familiar with, and other aspects that will be foreign and a bit bizarre. And this is good, because he connects with us and yet still exists to teach us about other realms of existence, some that may be real, others that are only real in our minds. If you’re a fan of mystery fiction, get on board. If you like tough guy stories, look no further. And if you like horror, there’s plenty here for you, my friend. Barron is a fantastic writer and he’s weaving new spells that have something for everyone to not only enjoy, but also brood upon.
Four Buckets of Blood out of Four
Kelly is the author of dozens of stories and dozens of reviews. He likes to write, he likes to read, he likes going to the movies, and he loves to laugh. He hails from the wilds of Kentucky and if you'd like to see more of his work, check out his website: www.kellymhudson.comor on Amazon