October 9, 2011

Rabid Reads: "Bad Moon Rising" by Jonathan Maberry

Bad Moon Rising
Pinnacle (2008)
608 pages
ISBN-13: 9780786018178

After reading the first two books in Maberry's Pine Deep trilogy, Ghost Road Blues and Dead Man's Song, it seemed readily apparent that he'd placed a small armory of proverbial guns on the mantle. In the third and final book, Bad Moon Rising, Maberry spends six hundred pages pulling the trigger on each and every one of them. Now, if you haven't had a chance to read the first two books yet, there's probably going to be some spoilers here, so don't say I didn't give you fair warning.

The book picks up pretty much where Dead Man's Song left off. Malcolm Crowe and his newly pregnant fiance Val are beaten and bloody yet again, but they've survived a second attack from the insane and impossibly alive Ruger. They thought they'd killed him at the end of Ghost Road Blues, when he was a sadistic street thug lured to Pine Deep as part of a supernatural menace's grand plans. But, Ruger came back from the dead, transformed and ready to do the bidding of his overlord, Ubel Griswold. In fact, coming back from the dead is the latest trend in Pine Deep. It seems the bad guys just can't take the hint.

While Crowe frets over Val's health, since she took the brunt of the punishment--and dealt the killing blow to Ruger--Terry Wolfe is in a coma in the same hospital, after a failed suicide attempt during a violent transformation into a werewolf. Turns out the ghost of his baby sister was onto something when she kept urging him to kill himself, because before he threw himself out of a window, he damned near killed his wife, Sarah.

As for the teenaged outcast, Mike Sweeney, his life gets even worse. The beatings from his pseudo-stepdad, Vic Wingate (the secret righthand man of Griswold), weren't enough. He's narrowly escaped death at the hands of a religious madman named Towtruck Eddie, and with Griswold's and Vic's help and manipulation, Eddie's on the hunt for Mike again so the boy can't reach his full potential and possibly thwart Griswold's plans for resurrection.

I doubt this book would work as a stand-alone, since the backstory is really only glanced upon as the big showdown builds. I think you'd pretty much have to invest in the first two books if you want to appreciate the context behind all the mayhem in the third--and there is a metric ton of mayhem. The whole story has been building to what Griswold calls the "Red Wave" which is supposed to allow him to rise out of the swamp where the Bone Man killed and buried him. To that end, I was kind of surprised the Bone Man didn't play a more prominent role in this grand finale. He'd been hanging around the scene like a specter the whole way through and I thought he'd get his hands dirtier when push came to shove. More spectator than specter in my estimation.

With such a dark, violent climax to this novel, Maberry leaves plenty of room to have fun with some of his characters. Tom Savini has a cameo appearance, for crying out loud, when the town's big Halloween festivities begin, as well as when the Red Wave begins. And Maberry literally pulls out all the punches when crafting the multiple fight scenes that ensue.

It's a satisfying end to a trilogy that I thought sagged some in the middle. Each prominent character through the entire series gets a spotlight shone on them at the end, giving each a proper ending, even if not all of them are happy endings. If you like small town epics, like Stephen King's Under the Dome or John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles, the Pine Deep trilogy is a far more electric and entertaining saga to dive into. And if you can find time to read all three books in a row, they might make for a fun Halloween reading marathon.


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