"A gleefully hard-boiled urban fantasy that lights up Boston’s mean streets."– Kirkus Reviews
A thriller puts Boston cops on the trail of a twisted serial killer.
In downtown Boston, Detective Ray Hanley has just left a courtroom and intends to meet his brother, Jacob, for a charity golf tournament. But his phone rings and his partner, Billy Devlin, calls him to the Granite Rail Quarries to investigate a death. The body fished from a quarry is Danny “the Mule” McDougal. Danny’s genitals and face have been creatively mutilated, and the detectives realize that this grisly, insulting death probably isn’t the work of either the Giabatti or Flaherty crime families. The killer, calling himself the Artist, kidnaps people who have wronged him, then tortures and mutilates them to death. The next victim, art gallery owner Barry Finkleton, ends up on display in the Stony Brook Reservation, hanging from a tree with crafted spider legs stuck where his own limbs used to be. Meanwhile, Jack Flaherty, the Irish mob boss, says that “the truce is over” between him and Italian kingpin Sal Giabatti. As Boston starts to resemble the bullet-riddled Old West, Ray grows more comfortable around his ex-girlfriend Tina Bolton, who works in the medical examiner’s office. The collision of his personal and professional lives may rock the entire city. In this second thriller starring the Hanley brothers, Cavignano (The Righteous and the Wicked, 2014, etc.) juxtaposes Clive Barker-style horror with Boston neighborhoods like Southie and oddities such as the “bright orange Tyrannosaurus Rex” on Route 1. The Artist’s behavior is gag-inducing and includes feeding his victims slices of one another and raping them. Relief comes during scenes of domestic bliss in Charlestown, where Ray and his wife raise three children. Elsewhere, the tone is macho but campy, especially Billy’s dialogue (“When life gives you melons, you gotta squeeze them while they’re ripe”). Overall, the author cracks his whip over the narrative, pushing the Flaherty family and the Artist under a single, villainous spotlight. Readers fatigued by bloated series may appreciate this. Then again, Cavignano’s vibrant imagination might flourish in a decompressed, multibook storyline. Here, though, his breakneck pacing consistently entertains.
Boston gets gory in this enjoyable, horror-tinged crime tale.
From the author of Where the Dark One Sleeps (2002) comes the story of an accountant who’s drawn into the clutches of a cult bent on reshaping the world.
In Boston, accountant Jacob Hanley is about to enjoy a restaurant meal when an old man stumbles in. Jacob catches the flailing man and is told to “Beware the Order,” the “plane of Symbios” and “the Great Elder.” Rattled as the man dies, Jacob assumes the ordeal is another of God’s sick pranks, like when his wife, Megan, died from a sudden aneurysm over a year ago. Later, Jacob realizes that he absentmindedly picked up a stranger’s ID from his table in the restaurant, and the 30-year-old stranger—Charles J. Riggs III—has the same piercing eyes as the old man. Jacob’s brother Ray, a police detective, agrees to investigate and learns that the old man was in fact Charles Riggs, a microbiologist who worked for Symbios Innovations. After muggers snatch Riggs’ ID, Jacob can’t resist checking out Riggs’ residence. He finds a computer document named SX4 and emails it to himself. From there, the accountant falls deeper into the deadly realm of an age-defying cult run by the powerful Great Elder. Author Cavignano brings wonderful characterization of people and places to his lightning-paced fantasy thriller. Jacob is a sympathetic widower who’s cut himself off from friends; he’d be totally lost without family. Boston neighborhoods are impeccably portrayed, like the North End’s “white-haired old men sitting in folding chairs outside tiny groceries.” There’s some enjoyable sci-fi, too, as with the Great Elder’s intelligence-enhancing formula that creates “an explosion of glial cells to support a host of new neurons.” But when readers finally encounter the menacing phenomena at the heart of the narrative, they may feel shortchanged. Religion and environmentalism also have a strong presence in the adventure, yet the goons-and-guns elements overshadow them; perhaps a sequel will explore the heavier topics more fully. Cavignano’s overall execution is nevertheless quite entertaining.
A gleefully hard-boiled urban fantasy that lights up Boston’s mean streets.
Cavignano’s second novel (The Righteous and the Wicked, 2014) is a solid horror story with appetizing characters.
Something ancient and evil is feeding on the residents of Glenwood, Massachusetts. Children go missing and then adults. The spirit of Samuel, a young boy from the 1600s, appears to three residents—teacher Jay, 9-year-old Sarah and high school freshman Tim—with a warning and the news that only they can stop the predator. All are outcasts. Jay’s fiancee has just left him, and he’s on the verge of letting alcohol destroy his life. Sarah has an overactive imagination and gets mocked for a lisp she fought hard to lose. Tim, new in town, is harassed by Randy, a high school thug. They all face a demonlike creature called Trell who was responsible for killing the residents of a colony in the area in the 1640s. Trell has the ability to make others do his bidding, and as he lures more people into his cave, he gets stronger and more aggressive in his murderous impulses. Meanwhile, the trio must track down Trell’s secrets and the lost colony’s history to stop him. The story works best when it sticks to the basic frame of the three misfits versus the demon, but the plot often meanders. A subplot about how Trell can be defeated is murky, especially concerning his amulet. The idea of the amulet is introduced very late in the story, and when its power is revealed in the end, it feels too convenient. Samuel has secrets that could help defeat Trell, but he doesn’t reveal much until the end. This is partly because he can’t stay in the earthly realm for long, but the reasons for that are never adequately explained. Jay’s alcoholism figures heavily into the plot, but other characters typically respond to that in thought rather than deed. The primarily clear prose bears a few confusing and labored descriptions—“Sweat beaded across his pale forehead, glistening under his blood-smeared lower lip”; “A strong wind gusted at their backs as the frenzied music of his neighbor’s wind chime carried through the night like Beethoven gone insane.” Cavignano is good at creating characters, and he’s set up a good story, but he doesn’t always color in the details in a way that allows the book to fulfill its potential.
Well-developed characters and premise but too few animating specifics.