Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Low Red Moon by Caitlin R. Kiernan

I made the mistake of reading the three novels featuring Chase Matthews and Deacon Silvey out of order (I know there are stories that feature him, and there may be a fourth novel, I’m not sure). Earlier this year, I read Daughter of Hounds, the first of her earlier period novels I’d read. I loved the later work (Agents of Dreamland, The Drowning Girl, The Red Tree and Black Helicopters) I read last year. I knew the earlier stuff was a little more straightforward in terms of plot, and wondered how the earlier novels could hold up to those later masterworks. I needn’t have worried. While I enjoyed the later work more, the loose trilogy of Threshold, Low Red Moon and Daughter of Hounds is excellent. I would recommend reading them in order, as Daughter of Hounds tipped me to one of the major points of the climax of this book. That knowledge is likely why I enjoyed the first and third in the series more. I look forward to reading them in the next couple of years.

Deacon Silvey is a psychic who has helped police solve crime in the past. He is a recovering alcoholic who drank because his visions gave him crippling migraines. Chase Matthews is a paleontologist and a strict materialist. As the novel opens, they are married and expecting their first child. There is a group of ghouls, ancient monstrous beings who live in house from Lovecraft (literally a house that appears in Lovecraft’s stories). They steal babies and raise them to do their bidding in a variety of occult scenarios. Two of these are characters in the novel. Early in his career Deacon thwarted one of these kidnappings. There is a woman who is half ghoul and half human. The ghouls do not accept these halflings in their number. She is going mad and becomes a serial killer. Since Deacon blocked one of their attempts at kidnapping a child, the killer wants to give the ghouls his child, hoping it will make them accept her.

The telling of the story is less straightforward than that summary. While these earlier novels are more straightforward than the later work, she is still more concerned with style than plot. She respects her readers enough to make them do some of the work. That’s not to say the novels are impossible to follow. They move along nicely. They are also quite bloody. There’s a heavy splatterpunk influence here. No hesitation to reveal gruesome details. The mythology is slowly revealed, almost in the background. The characters occasionally veer towards being too melodramatically goth (a tendency absent from her later work), but the writing and mythology more than make up for that. There is a twisted sort of awe that she evokes that is the real hook for me in her work.

Highly Recommended (though read Threshold first, or if you only think you’ll read one or two Kiernan books try The Red Tree or Agents of Dreamland)

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