It's Only Death
by Lee Thompson
Available at Amazon.com
I already knew Lee Thompson could write horror and dark fantasy, so when this noir novella came out at the start of the year I had a fair hunch that he'd rock that genre too.
James returns home at the behest of his estranged sister, because their mother is dying. Cancer. He hasn't seen either of them since he fled town years ago following a botched bank robbery during which he shot and killed a cop. His own father. To say James has enemies back home would be an understatement.
With a story like this, I imagine Lee could have had fun plotting it out meticulously and coming up with a insanely wild ride, but here it feels like he let the characters lead the dance. The emotional horsepower driving this story along is powerful, even at points when it feels like JAmes is charging headlong into certain death in contradiction to his stated goals. It's when he makes it out of those early scrapes that I'm left scratching my head, but I'm reassured as the escalations carry heavy costs and James' warpath has a vicious wake.
Melodramatic at points, sure, but when it comes to noir you need that sometimes. And have you seen the news coming out of Florida lately? That place has more melodrama than swampland.
I have Lee's A Beautiful Madness on my to-be-read pile, another crime/thriller novel, which after having read this I will be eager to dive into to see if he captures Texas there the way he captured Florida here.