Gabriel Hill. Gabe. An unusual name for a story that’s out of the ordinary.
He arrives home one night, steaming drunk to find a body on his doorstep. The body’s been dismembered and it holding on to his missing organ. The body happens to belong to a paedophile who has been in a fight with Gabe that very night – and lost.
It’s not a good night for him, even though he has connections with the police.
Needless to say, he ends up as prime suspect.
Appearing that same night are animal carcasses pinned to trees in the wood. Reminds the folk there of some odd goings on 20 years earlier when there was a cult operating in the area.
Gabe’s brother happened to be in the cult. Was also into drugs and maybe doing things that were distasteful to get them.
Thing is, his brother’s just died and it seems that there are a lot of people after what he had, whatever that was.
A trio come to town to find out what Gabe knows and what he is doing with the goods, only now they’re split into a duet and a solo.
They’re not nice. They know how to get what they want and exactly how to get it.
And there are others after the same thing.
The sensible thing for Gabe to do might be to give everything up there and then, only he hasn’t got a clue what they’re on about.
Nor is Gabe about to anything sensible, in spite of his post-grad degree. He's a little too messed up, loyal and philosophical for that.
It’s a great read from the start.
All the way through, there’s a sense of menace in the book that means it’s not easy to settle as there’s no way of knowing what’s likely to happen next.
The people chasing Gabe share not only the motive for being after him, but an expertise in the exploitation of whatever means might be necessary to get what they want.
Gabe paints himself into corner after corner, forms alliances and breaks them in order to stay ahead of the game and to stay alive.
I like R Thomas Brown’s short fiction rather a lot and was nervous that this attempt at a novel might have stretched his skills too far.
Not a bit of it.
It shows him to be the craftsman he is. The plot is cleverly put together and the execution is bang on – tension, menace, humour and a constant energy made this a book I’m heartily recommendation.
Among the things that stamp this book out as unusual is the dialogue. It has a different quality to it, somehow. Like Brown is after something new. Somewhere between the conversations of fiction and real life and all the more curious for that.
He has also produced a cast of characters that have roots in tradition, yet who have grown into grotesque mutations once reaching the light above ground.
Totally engaging and worthy of any reader’s time.
Hill Country UK
Hill Country US