The Final Reconciliation – Todd Keisling

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So, as a fellow metal-head, I feel a kindred spirit with Todd as he unfurls The Final Reconciliation, a story about a journalist who is interviewing Aidan Cross. Cross is an aging guitarist who is institutionalized for going off his nut over the tragic show his band played 30 years ago. Aidan was the guitarist of the prog-metal band, The Yellow Kings. After hardcore touring in support of their EP, the band lands a two-album deal and head to Los Angeles to record their official first record. After a show in Texas, they pick up a groupie named Camille, who was waiting behind the club for the band. She immediately takes a shine to their lead singer, Johnny. Soon, the band learns that Camille is not your ordinary groupie trying to sponge of the band in hopes that they’ll be famous. No, she has a different agenda and the band are simply pawns in her evil plan.

The Final Reconciliation pulls out it’s inner Lovecraft and marries it with story about a heavy metal band. Metal bands have been influenced by all things macabre and Lovecraft is a favorite of many, i.e. Metallica. Keisling has done his homework. As someone who knows a thing or two, not much more, but a thing or two about metal bands, touring, and recording, he executes the story flawlessly. This is where so many writers can go astray – writing about something that they don’t know enough about and the cracks show. This isn’t the case here. Kudos to Keisling. Not only did he get his facts right, but he delivered one hell of a story, in the process.

5 Guitar Solos out of 5
This ARC was provided by Crystal Lake Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
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Covenant – Allan Leverone

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Lindie and Justin relocate from North Carolina to the small town of Covenant, New Hampshire to start their new jobs. They purchase a “fixer-upper” and immediately get to work remodeling. One afternoon, Justin goes to get them something to drink. After too much time had passed, Lindie goes looking for Justin and finds him at the bottom of the basement stairs in a pool of blood with a pair of hedge trimmers protruding from his body. In the aftermath of the “freak accident”, Lindie is badgered by a persistent detective that can’t buy her explanation and can’t go out in public without hearing the stinging whispers of small town New England gossip. By chance, she begins to learn of the history of her “fixer upper” and it’s not a pretty story. Edward Collins, the recluse tycoon had the house built to some peculiar specifications. Those specifications helped him with his favorite past time – the torture and murder of prostitutes. Edward has been dead for over a hundred years, but it’s hard to keep evil at bay forever.

Covenant is a fun haunted house tale and my first read from Leverone. He commands the story well and you begin to feel for Lindie. At it’s best, Covenant has shades of Amityville Horror in it. There are times that the dialogue feels a little forced and the introduction of a meth-head killer on the run in the middle of the story seemed awkward. It does tie together nicely at the end. All in all, a decent read from Leverone.

3 1/2 Floating Steak Knives out of 5
This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Dead of Winter – Brian Moreland

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In a remote fur-trapping outpost in Quebec, someone…or something is killing the inhabitants of Fort Pendleton and eating their bodies. Tom Hatcher has seen this before. The inspector from Montreal has recently captured the Cannery Cannibal after his gruesome murder spree of 12 prostitutes. Father Xavier has seen these dark forces at work, as well. He has spent his life exercising demons from poor, helpless souls. Anika Moonblood is also privy to the dark spirits that haunt these woods. Her tribe have been dealing with the evil manitous for generations. With the help of Father Xavier and Anika, can Tom Hatcher get to the bottom of these ghastly deaths in time to save people of Fort Pendleton or will evil prevail?

Dead of Winter is one action-packed thrill ride from cover to cover. It is also Moreland’s debut, which thoroughly amazes me. It is so well written and thought out. You can really tell that Moreland has done his research. Native American folklore is marriaged beautifully with Catholic exorcisms and set in the unique backdrop of the frigid and desolate backdrop of the remote Canadian wilderness of the late 1800s. I thought the characters were great and Brian packs a ton of twists and turns into 300 pages to keep you flying through it. If I were to look hard and try to come up with a complaint, I can only think of one minor one. His protagonists seem to be way too progressive in their thinking in abuse towards woman in the late 1800s. Although, it would be very normal to be appalled at certain things today, I have my doubts that many people would’ve put up a fuss in the northern frontier in 1878. But again, it’s a minor complaint. The rest of it is superb and it kicked off my 2017 with a bang.

5 Gnawed Severed Arms out of 5
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Coco Butternut – Joe Lansdale

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Coco Butternut is the name of a prize-winning dachshund that was mummified by it’s eccentric owner after it died and the body was stolen and held for ransom. It is also the title of Lansdale’s latest short Hap and Leonard novella. The mystery is something out of The Hardy Boys, i.e. Not very hard to figure out, but that’s not why you read a Hap and Leonard tale. You read them for the banter back and forth between the two. I do have to admit this one is a very vanilla offering amongst the catalog, but a quick read nonetheless. Think of it as Lansdale fast food. It gets the job done, but there’s not a lot of substance.

3 1/2 Pickled Wieners out of 5
*This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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