November 14, 2014

Grieving Las Vegas: a review of Kate Jonez's "Ceremony of Flies"

Ceremony of Flies
by Kate Jonez
DarkFuse (2014)
232 pages

If Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas made a baby with Natural Born Killers, that baby's name might be Ceremony of Flies.

Now, I'm not going to get too much into the nitty gritty of this novel's plot, because I think it is best experienced if you go into it cold. Heck, you should probably avoid the book's back cover blurb if you can help it, because even that gives too much away to prospective readers. Sufficed to say that when you think this book is heading in one direction, it veers wildly and you can't help but hang on for dear life.

Basically, you've got a gal named Emily stuck in a dead-end job at a Vegas casino. It beats her life in New York and that horrible ex she left back there, but when she goes a little ... crazy one night and stabs her Vegas boss, she has little choice but to run for her life. To where? Where all fugitives from justice go? Down Mexico way.

She can't do it on her own though, and soon finds herself in the company of a stranger named Rex, who at first blush seems equal parts mystery and menace. But looks can be deceiving, as Kate Jonez's imagination illustrates along Emily & Rex's road trip into the desert. Tension mounts incrementally as Emily's rather insidious tendencies spring forth, almost from out of nowhere, but even then the true threat of the story is yet to be revealed.

Okay, I've probably given too much away with that. It's an engrossing read and a superb introduction into the dark machinations of Jonez's storytelling. The story has its hiccups here and there with pacing and swerves in the narrative, but overall the characters leap off the page in beautiful and horrifying detail. As much as you are kept guessing what might happen next, you are also left guessing just how Emily and Rex will react and how long their tenuous allegiance can hold.

If you haven't given this one a go, you should remedy that, because Kate's got the goods.

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