Genre: Lovecraftian Horror-Urban Fantasy-Noir
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor.com (October 11, 2016)
Length: 64 pages
My Rating: 3 stars
Hammers on Bone is set in present day London and stars a mysterious detective, a creepy kid, and hidden horrors. Powerful, dark and filled with more than a few twists, this is a novella sure to excite fans of Lovecraftian noir.
Following along behind a loner named John Persons, readers are immediately sucked into the story when a young boy tries to hire this private eye to kill his stepfather, McKinsey. The kid explaining that some evil presence has infected McKinsey and will harm him and his brother if nothing is done to stop it. When our hard-nosed detective shows a lack of interest in his circumstances, the youth tells Persons that only he can deal with this entity, because it takes one monster to kill another (or something to that effect).
Written in the first person, Hammers on Bone is filled with 1940s noir atmosphere, plenty of internal monologue by our private dick, and lots of old school alpha dog behavior, as John Persons exhibits all the out-of-time character traits of a man from the past rather than the present. This odd behavior by our protagonist so bizarre, so completely out of touch with modern sensibilities that, at times, a reader is left wondering how a person like this could even exist in today’s PC Culture.
Even more entertaining than Persons’ quirks is whether he is actually what he appears to be. This plot line regarding the true nature of our protagonist a wonderfully developed device by Cassandra Khaw, one she deftly uses to keep her readers turning the pages. Especially entertaining is Persons’ constant snarky comments and revealing thoughts, as these tidbits of information slowly transform him from a man-out-of-time into a weird protagonists more than able to confront the evil, alien presence of McKinsey, as he helm this Lovecraftian horror escapade to its conclusion.
When the cosmic monster noir does end, most of the dangling plot threads are satisfactorily dealt with, though some do remain. There is even the indication there may be more tales coming from private eye John Persons; his story open ended enough to warrant a few more novellas to peel away the layers of his mysterious life.
Complaints (because we all know I have them) about this novella limited to only one: the lack of real suspense. Our antagonist, McKinsey, begins this tale as a powerful, monstrous entity pitted against a fairly odd and old-fashioned private detective, but by the conclusion, the roles have changed dramatically: There being no real doubt that Persons is the more powerful of the two, quite capable of easily taking down his adversary. In fact, the only real question remaining is how our private dick is going to do it and whether there will be any fallout from his release of his less-than-human side. This issue did not ruin the story for me, but it left me less satisfied by the ending than I would have been if the final confrontation had been more evenly matched.
Overall, Hammers on Bone was an entertaining, creative twist on the Lovecraftian model with enough classic noir to give it a unique flavor all its own. Certainly, it wasn’t perfect (But what is?), and I, for one, wouldn’t mind reading a sequel or two about John Persons, because I believe Cassandra Khaw could do some great things with this unique detective story.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.