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Book Reviews: The Pale Horse + Florida Roadkill + The Mammoth Book Of Cthulhu, part 1

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
This is a creepy tale of a how by chance, a man connects certain obscure facts and realises that something strange is going on at the Pale Horse inn. Are 3 local eccentrics succumbing to delusions of mystical power or is something else going on that involves a number of seemingly unconnected sudden deaths? This was ingenious, enjoyable and good.

Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey
There is nothing but tedious weirdness in this 1999 novel. This is the first Serge Storms novel and the beginning of his kill chain is very different from later follow-ups. It has total nihilism among Serge and his gang who live a weirdly infantilised existence. Two innocents have eerie beatific placidity. Serge just has casual sadism. Rather than traverse any sort of ordered narrative, there is Jacobean extravagance of murders and a depressingly reconstructed female character who is simultaneously a nagging harridan, a calculating moll and a psychopathic sex worker.

Serge spews madly overcooked monologues and the plot is all glib, toothless and rather pointless running around. The plot is bafflingly preposterous and there is no potential subtlety or complexity. There is just violence, menace, exotically grisly death, no women in any non-shagging capacity, technically and imaginatively lazy writing, no explanation of the dark recesses of the mind and a sense of monotony. There is no brute madness or existential doom just boredom.

Best Lines:
“We have all these insane armed hobos coming down from the Midwest,”

“Johnson just picks it out of his drink, tosses it in his mouth and starts crunching.”
“Now that’s class.”

“Sexy in a trampy sort of way.”

“She had a thing against ambition.”

“There’s two scary looking men in our yard,”

“The bass player accidentally spilled a beaker of chicken blood into his amp during a song urging violence against pacifists.”

“Delightful banality.”

“Because of the noise complaints from the airport.”

“His entire daily routine consisted of snorting coke and peeking out windows. Coke-thinking told him it was a good time to clean all his guns.”

The Mammoth Book Of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran, part 1

In Syllables of Elder Sea
This think piece was not fascinatingly compelling or memorably atmospheric. Just airport paperback histrionics.

The Peddler’s Tale or Isobel’s Revenge
By Caitlin R. Kiernan. A creepy tale of told by a peddler. It has complex morality and appalling moral quandaries but a biased narrator can be subtly subversive. This was very good.

Best Lines:
“No one ought ever speak that name.”

“The history of that tower is a shuddersome tale in its own right, one all but lost to history.”

It’s All The Same Road in The End
Two brothers go looking for their long missing grandfather and learn how thin the barrier is between civilization and chaos. This is a surprisingly intense tale of flatly terrifying revelations rendered bleaker still by the ending.

Caro In Carno
A weird family of outcasts do insufferably weird things. This has a tricksy irrelevance.

The Cthulhu Navy Wife
The mortal foes have triumphed and you have to learn to live with the baleful dread that is now normal. This is a good creepy tale that defamiliarises the familiar.

Those Who Watch
A librarian goes to work in a library that holds hidden tomes. This was good and thoughtful even if the heroine is equivocating and opines wildly.

A Clutch
By Laird Barron. A dying man recounts a dark tale of moral uncertainty. This was excellent with a good ending.

Best Lines:
“That was the extent of his nefarious comport.”

“The moral I learned from this experience is always heed your suspicious inner voice.”

Just Beyond The Trailer Park
A sequel to Lovecraft’s ‘From Beyond’. A white trash kid gets drawn into something otherworldly. This was okay and has haunting scope.

The Sea Inside
This was a take on ‘The Thing On The Doorstep’ and was dull, too short and was not gloomy or cerebral.

Outside The House, Watching For Crows
A man writes a letter telling of something odd that happened to him as a teenager. This was very good with slick narrative acrobatics.

Alexandra Lost
A boring couple go on a boring road trip. This was distressingly bad and not raw or visceral.
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