Review: The Scent of New Death by Mike Monson

When Phil Gaines’ new wife, a kinky young barmaid called Paige, and his business partner, a psychopathic pervert and genius getaway man called Jeff, run off together it’s a case of so far, so bad. But when he realises that they’ve also made off with his life’s savings, accumulated from years of bank robberies executed with zen-like calmness and precision, it’s a matter of life and death. Until this point, Gaines has managed to live a quiet and controlled life of meditation in his modest apartment in Modesto, California apartment and successful robberies out of the state.

But now his life is anything but quiet and controlled. He wants his money back and his wife and partner dead.

However, his ex-cohorts have plans of their own, which include framing and killing Gaines in a big robbery that will make them a lot of money if they can pull it off. But when the plan goes awry and Gaines escapes it leaves the main players chasing each other across the state to the home of an ageing pornstar, where their blood-soaked destinies await.

Mike Monson is a fairly new author to me. I’d read a couple of pieces of his flash fiction over at Shotgun Honey (Tough Love being an especially memorable tale), but The Scent of New Death is I believe his first longer-length work. Although the title page calls it a novella the story manages to cram more incident and character into its pages than many works that are twice the length. And I honestly loved every second of it. The characters of Phil, Paige and Jeff are fully realised and are starkly contrasting. Phil is controlled and calm most of the time, thanks to his zen meditation, but he also has a sociopathic disregard for human life, which means he’ll kill anybody who gets in his way. Paige is wild and initially fun-loving, though her idea of fun differs markedly from that of most regular people. Jeff is as vile as they come – a sexually deviant psychopath with absolutely no regard for human life and enjoys murdering for the sheer thrill. Even the minor characters have a feeling of interior lives, rather than as pieces to be moved around an elaborate literary chessboard. The prose is clear and precise and doesn’t get in the way of the action and incident, of which there’s plenty, and the dialogue is sharp and snappy without being showy. It is a superb crime thriller with some very, very violent and kinky moments. If you’ve got the stomach for it I can’t recommend The Scent of New Death highly enough. Superb.

Review: Fuckin’ Lie Down Already by Tom Piccirilli

As the story begins, Clay, a New York detective, is pretty close to the end. His family have been murdered and he has been gut shot and left for dead by a junkie hitman hired by a mob boss who Clay was investigating. The problem for the junkie and the mob boss is that they didn’t finish the job. Despite the fact that his entire digestive system seems to be coming out through the holes in his abdomen, Clay packs the corpses of his wife and son in the family car and sets off on a journey of no return to get revenge on the men who’ve crossed him.

That synopsis pretty much sums up the entirety of Piccirilli’s tight, lean and gruelling revenge novella, which discards most of the set-up that would usually be put in place in the usual run-of-the-mill revenge tale and turns it into back story. As a consequence, what it lacks in characterisation it more than makes up for in velocity and ferocity, speeding along like an out-of-control express train. It’s a visceral tale, for sure – Piccirilli paints a grim picture of what is happening to the protagonist’s innards – but so cleanly and clearly executed that even the most squeamish readers will be riveted to their seats. It is superbly written and comes highly recommended.