A badass convict and a jaded Texas sheriff go head-to-head with an ancient Aztec demon in the latest from Mansbach (Rage Is Back, 2013, etc.).
The novel is just as screwball and even more propulsive than the author's previous works. Jess Galvan is a smuggler who gets busted on the wrong side of the Tex-Mex border by a federale named Pescador while trying to raise 50 large to pay for a custody lawyer. Rotting away in prison, Galvan is chosen by El Cucuy, the ancient high priest of an evil Aztec order, to carry the magical beating heart of a slain virgin to El Cucuy’s son Seth deep in the Montesajo Caverns. The only thing standing between Galvan and his team of fellow convicts is an army of threatening, dead virgins. Yes, this is certifiably some Weird Stuff. Meanwhile, a girl named Sherry Richards has been kidnapped by this cult, and she and a classmate are soon on the run from their murderous pursuers, with a tough Texas lawman named Nichols not far behind. Mansbach’s enormous gift for language and a dedicated understanding of the genres involved—noir, horror, thriller and other tropes come into play here—make this wobbly machine work surprisingly well. This could have easily come off like a From Dusk Till Dawn rip-off, but it’s far better than readers might be expecting. Galvan talks like Jules Winnfield out of Pulp Fiction, sure, but the plot is as hard-core as an episode of Breaking Bad, and Mansbach’s desiccated prose is first-rate.
A head-spinning mashup of genres, with a cast that includes bikers, hookers, demons and corrupt cops. It works.