A rogue scientist’s experiment in revenge wreaks havoc on a rural township in Pennsylvania.
A rare one-off from the prolific Maberry (Dust & Decay, 2011, etc.) recycles bits and pieces from B-horror flicks and adds a few twists of its own. The author dedicates the book to George A. Romero, penning an unapologetic love letter to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, right down to a setting in rural Pennsylvania. It’s here in pastoral Stebbins County that things go to hell. It starts at a new-age funeral home whose proprietor, Doc “Lee” Hartnup, is startled to find the corpse of serial killer Homer Gibbon. Stumbling into a grotesque crime scene are two local cops, JT Hammond and his partner Desdemona “Dez” Fox. JT is more soulful, a quiet, cautious cop and father figure. Predictably, the book focuses on the voluptuous Dez: “Built like Scarlett Johansson, with ice blue eyes, bee-stung lips and a natural blonde if the rumors were true.” Her self-destructive rage veers dangerously near caricature while her characterization as “Genghis Khan with boobs” doesn’t exactly inspire affection. Still, this shortcoming won’t detract Maberry’s legions from enjoying his breathless, clipped prose as the zombie plague accelerates—just as a hurricane bears down on Stebbins County. The truly creepy part comes when local hack and serial-killer aficionado Billy Trout starts tracking down Gibbon’s back story. Billy roots out Dr. Herman Volker, an East German scientist smuggled out by the CIA. To avenge an old family trauma, Volker has resurrected a secret formula. “Can you think of a more fitting punishment for a serial murderer than to be awake and aware in a coffin while his body slowly rots?” Volker’s detailed, believable description of the unspeakable cocktail he’s invented, right down to cribbing from The Serpent and the Rainbow, is as inventive as it is sickening.
An outlandish but superfluous zombie yarn that is gruesome, imaginative and grateful to its inspirations.