Anybody who has read this blog over the past year knows that I’m rather a big fan of Heath Lowrance. The Bastard Hand and Dig Ten Graves are up there with the best I have read this year, so I had high hopes for his latest crime thriller City of Heretics. I interviewed Heath in September about his new novel for this blog, which you can find here.
The story concerns Crowe; an ageing mob enforcer who is fresh out of prison with some scores to settle with some colleagues who got him sent up and tried to kill him. Before he can settle those scores Crowe attempts to find and take care of a serial killer. This leads Crowe to the front door of a strange and secretive Christian society with some very Old Testament notions about the word of God.
Heath Lowrance’s second novel is a different beast to The Bastard Hand. For a start, it’s a much tighter, shorter affair; the prose is leaner, the pace faster and the protagonist a whole lot meaner. Richard Stark’s Parker novels spring to mind when thinking about the feel of this book (the earlier novels, that is, not the later, weaker, ones). Lowrance paints some memorable images using very few words (particularly concerning the Ghost Cat – a dream figure that weaves its way through the novel). Also, his ear for dialogue remains as sharp as it did for TBH, though, again, the dialogue is shorter, more direct. What makes it really work is Crowe. He’s a hard-ass, a tough guy, a smart operator, ruthless and single-minded. He drives the tale forward, propelling it like rocket-fuel. Despite the beatings he takes, Crowe never gives up, never takes his eyes off the goal. He is a first-class character, a character most writers would love to have created. But, the thing is, they didn’t, Lowrance created him, along with a world that leaps off the page. It’s superbly written and confirms the abundant promise that The Bastard Hand announced to the world. Highly recommended.