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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Black Death by R. Karl Largent

I’ve been having a blast discovering some authors that I hadn’t read before and Largent is one of those. This book is a cool take on the Eco Terror horror novels I’ve been reading. But this time it has a twist. Instead of some creature that you can see and fight this time it is a disease that is going to kill you. You can’t see it coming only the terrifying results! Time to get to the good stuff.

The residents of the small Indiana town of Half Moon are just living their lives and minding their own business. Then one day a couple of bodies are found. All twisted and dried out they turn to dust before the coroner can even arrive to investigate. Inexplicable and odd as it may seem no one panics. But then more bodies show up and the authorities are called in to help the local sheriff sort it all out. But it continues to get worse and before the citizens of Half Moon realize the danger the National Guard has arrived, and the town is on lockdown. What is the cause of the mysterious disease and how is it spreading? Could it be tied into the history of one of the locals? More importantly can it be stopped? These questions and more will be answered before the final page is turned.

I rather liked this book. It does have some flaws that I will discuss later, but overall it was a good read. Heck I read the entire thing in one sitting after arriving home from my local used bookstore. For those of you that gave me some heat for admitting I had read an earlier book on my Kindle. I did find an actual old beat-up paperback copy of Black Death for this review! The story was engaging, and I liked the twists and turns Largent gives the reader to chew on. We get a great mystery. What is the illness and how is it being transmitted? Mixed in are some decently graphic and sadly disturbing death scenes. When people die from the illness they rapidly decay until nothing is left but a pile of dust. I found that horrifying which I suppose was the point.

Our main protagonist is a Deputy Sheriff named Bogner and the reader gets to experience most of the story from his point of view. The author does a great job of making him an everyman that we can relate to. He isn’t portrayed as some sort of action hero and unlike many of the books we aren’t expected to swallow him doing some insanely heroic and nearly impossible things. He is a regular guy doing what he can to save his town and the woman he cares about. That was a nice change of pace.

There are a couple of things that bugged me about the book and I’m going to do my best to talk about them without any spoilers. First up is the source of the infection. Well maybe not the source itself, but the fact that no one has noticed it before. The book establishes that it affects animals, so it is almost impossible that nothing had happened up until the events of the story. There is a character who should have had every reason to suspect or at least pay attention to things that is caught by surprise. I found that a bit hard to believe.

I also was really happy with what I thought was the ending of the book but then we get an epilogue. Again, without giving too much away what feels like the finale is a bit bleak but fits with the general tone of the book. But then we get an extra chapter tacked on at the end where we find out a couple of minor characters had a happy ending. In what should have been the end the infection is out of control and things look bad, but the tacked-on bit happens ten years later and inexplicably everything is fine and under control. This was a bummer.

Flaws taken into consideration I still had a good time reading Black Death. Heck most of my complaints exist because I enjoyed the characters and story so much that it bothered me when it was messed with. I have to believe someone during the editing process suggested to lighten up the ending. If you read this, and I think you should, skip the epilogue and let it end with the last scene with Bogner. Way cooler that way!

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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