At the age of six, Harry Wilkes got the mumps, almost died, got better, began to see sounds.
“Audiochronology” is like second sight, only it works through sounds that can evoke a violent, brutal, often murderous past. Whatever explains or defines the experience, each occurrence terrifies the adult Harry and makes him desperate to avoid an encore. While he’s visiting a friend’s apartment, a sound inexplicably triggers a visitation. A man stands before him, shotgun under his chin, and in the next moment, there’s “blood, brains, and skull everywhere”—a “trapped memory” verified by subsequent newspaper research. Bunches of doctors can’t help Harry, but for a while, booze can. Just as absolute dependency threatens, Harry meets Tad Peters, a philosopher and martial-arts expert with his own alcohol-abuse problems. Their fortuitous encounter leads to a mutual support pact that’s soon put to the test in ways neither of them could have predicted. An old murder case gets solved, an old love affair rekindled, and Harry manages to siphon some of the scare out of his unwelcome gift.
No doubt there’s a leaner, more suspenseful tale struggling to break out of this one. But Lansdale (A Fine Dark Line, 2003, etc.) remains one of the preeminent entertainers in crime fiction.