The Vagrants is the latest work from Brian Moreland, an author who I have come to rely on to create tales of creeping horror and gore that also has intelligence about them. His work is well researched for a taste of authenticity and despite the supernatural phenomena that occurs on the pages, there is a sense of believability to his characters. The Vagrants has a similar flavor to it and the author has once again chosen to introduce us to a new geographical environment-this time the urban sprawl of Boston, where the crosshairs are on the homeless.
Daniel Finley is a journalist who has decided to spend several months living amongst the homeless population of the city, behaving as one of them to see what it is really like and to craft a novel that will expose the hidden plight they suffer through. At first, his experiences are normal, as far as being homeless goes-he lives under an overpass among a group of people with a variety of tragic tales-some of which are junkies and dangerous, though most are simply down on their luck people who still have hope that they can turn things around. But then a traveling self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ comes to the underpass with his zombie-like followers and starts converting the homeless to his cause. He speaks of the end of days and the destruction of those who do not serve his dark gods. Daniel is almost pulled into the hypnotic tribe of his followers but manages to escape Mordecai’s clutches.
The novel he writes is a success but it seems that everything Daniel looks as he resumes his normal life off the streets, he sees Mordecai’s followers, calling for him to join them. That, along with the disappearance of a professor who is as intrigued by the homeless as Daniel and several other strange events occurring in his life lead to a confrontation with Mordecai, with gruesome results.
This is a shorter work than the rest of the tales the author has produced (except for a short story that introduced The Witching House) and perhaps that was why I was left wishing for something more. The supernatural element here is creepy, as the author tends to do extremely well, though it is a bit more clipped and mysterious-there is little in the way of a the ‘big reveal’ we’ve been treated to in the past. Still, the story has the same dark, gritty, razors edge flavor that Mr. Moreland’s larger works have, and leaves room for a more detailed tale down the road. For fans of his work, it will entertain like all the rest.
The Vagrants can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Vagrants-Brian-Moreland-ebook/dp/B00K1WUCIC/ref=la_B002BM3020_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403149249&sr=1-5
The Devil’s Woods is Brian Moreland’s second foray into the mysteries of the Canadian wilderness and Native American mythology. His first book, Dead of Winter explored darkness in Ontario from the 19th Century, while The Devil’s Woods explores deviltry in the 21st century out west, in an abandoned Cree Indian Reservation and the nearby town of Hagen’s Cove, which has been a place where people, especially young girls, have been disappearing for over a century without a trace.
Kyle Elkheart, a half-Cree horror novelist living in Seattle who grew up on the reservation, is called home by his uncle and grandfather. His brother Eric and his sister Shawna are the last surviving members of their tribe and their estranged professor father went missing weeks earlier after having spent time exploring the Cree lands-deep into the forbidden woodlands that surround the reservation. Kyle is reluctant at first, but needs a vacation from the nightmares that haunt him every night and the visions of his deceased wife, who passed away two years prior. The lands surrounding their homeland are beautiful though, and Kyle is pleased he is able to make the trip and hopefully get out of the funk surrounding his writing. He is bothered by the fact that he is attracted to Eric’s pretty girlfriend, who has joined them on the trip, and that he seems to be the only person concerned about the disappearance of their father. He sees walking visions of the dead on the reservation and is warned in no uncertain terms by his uncle about the evil that lurks in the woodlands, but suspects that his father may still be out there, uncovering some of the oddities that have caused this region of the country to be dubbed the Canadian Bermuda Triangle.
Every day and every hour seems to reveal bits and pieces of the mystery, especially when a family that has come searching for another member of Kyle’s father’s missing expedition goes missing themselves. There are perhaps monstrous creatures that live within the woods which haunts Cree folklore, but that is not the only evil that Kyle and his family must confront if they are to survive their trip into the Canadian Wilderness.
The Devil’s Woods is another solidly written horror yarn by Brian Moreland, who does an excellent job of crafting believable tales of the supernatural. My favorite of his was his first book, Dead of Winter, and this novel follows in its murky, grim footsteps with demonic glee. The author isn’t afraid to spill some blood and craft horribly wicked creatures that feel like they stepped right out of ancient myth and legend. The evil in this book is quite malevolent while the character development is also solid. The characters, for the most part, are believable and their actions are very plausible. I was perhaps not sold on some elements of the burgeoning romance that Kyle is starting to have with his brother’s girlfriend, but while it felt somewhat predictable it still fit in well with the telling of tale.
The story offers up a few good twists that will keep most readers on their feet and a solid, well-paced supernatural story that is both fun and satisfyingly gruesome. The author’s storytelling abilities always make it a pleasure to return to the sick passages of his twisted mind and this tale was no exception. I look forward to what Brian dreams up next.
The Devil’s Woods can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Devils-Woods-Brian-Moreland/dp/1619215659/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1388021906&sr=1-1
Shadows in the Mist was the first novel written by author Brian Moreland, written several years ago but that has been re-released this month by Samhain Publishing. I’m not sure what modifications were made to the original tale, if any, with this new version.
While most of this story takes place in the Hurtgen Forest in Germany in late World War II, part of it is told through the eyes of Sean Chambers in the present day. He is the grandson of Jack Chambers, the main character. Jack was a Lieutenant during the war and led his men into battle from Northern Africa all the way into Germany. His last mission in the Hurgten still torments him to this day. When Jack gives Sean his war diary and asks him to hand it over to his friend, General Briggs, who is stationed in Germany, a Rabbi who served with Jack on that last mission catches up with Sean and urges him to forget his grandfather’s request and let sleeping dogs lie. The mission was top secret and it would be better for everyone if it stayed that way. Compelled by his grandfather’s request and ignoring the ominous threats of the Rabbi, Sean and the General return to Hurtgen and to a church Jack referenced were the real mystery lies buried. This is also where Sean begins to read his grandfather’s war diary so he can better understand what happened all those years ago.
The rest of this tale returns us to the battles in Hurtgen that Jack and his platoon suffered through. Jack had been dubbed the Grim Reaper by some, since so many of his men died under his command, though it is clear that he has been given some of the most dangerous assignments in the war and that he has done all that he can to protect the soldiers under his command. We are introduced to the six men in his platoon who, along with Chambers, dub themselves the Lucky Seven because they alone have survived through every battle together. Promises are made that they will be sent back home after years in the field, but the officer who makes that promise to Chambers dies before he can send that request to HQ and his new commanding officer insists they complete one last mission-a secret one with a group of commandos looking to push the Germans out of the Hurtgen for good. As the men reluctantly join this group of gung ho secret operatives, including a Lieutenant who shares an ugly past with Chambers, they discover that the mission has much darker goal than they’ve been told-uncovering how the Nazi’s are using supernatural means to create super soldiers.
This is the second novel I’ve read by Brian Moreland and much like his other effort, Dead of Winter, it provides the reader with a well researched and thought out story providing historically accurate and intriguing details, but doesn’t suffer from being over-stuffed with “technical” minutia that might distract from an otherwise intriguing supernatural adventure tale. Certainly, the idea of the Nazi’s discovering artifacts and texts of a religious nature which provide them with an advantage in their quest to become the master race is not a new one, but the author has drawn from historical events to craft his story, which gave it the right touch of authenticity and made it feel all the more plausible and entertaining.
I enjoyed this novel-my overriding appreciation for it comes from Jack’s tale as divulged in his war diary. The characters-in particular the Lucky Seven and Jack’s hated lieutenant rival-were all entertaining and solidly developed individuals. But as I like to do with each book that I review, I like to point out where the story might have missed the mark for me. With Shadows In the Mist, it was with the present day portion of the tale. It just felt like it was missing something. Early in, Sean is warned about the dire consequences of digging into the past and discovering what Jack and the Rabbi who was with him during his mission worked so hard to cover up in the Hurgten, and then Sean does continue digging, then Jack’s story is revealed, and then we return to present day and …well, I don’t like to divulge spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that, except to say that the rest of Sean and General Brigg’s story left me expecting more. My honest belief is that this book could have stuck to Jack’s tale from World War II exclusively and it would have been a great stand alone tale.
Even with this issue of mine, this is a fun, entertaining supernatural adventure novel that was well done and a lot of fun to read. Definitely worth checking out.
Shadows in the Mist can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Shadows-Mist-Brian-Moreland/dp/1619210665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1347167908&sr=1-1&keywords=shadows+in+the+mist