Hickmon’s taut, gripping fiction debut journeys into a world of subversive rock-and-roll, dark perversions and deep emotional scars.
The novel opens with a scene of precisely described violence: A man named Andrew opens his front door late at night to find Chris Pesner, his girlfriend’s 14-year-old son. The boy then pepper-sprays him in the eyes, breaks his kneecap with a baseball bat and shoots him dead. The story jolts forward to show Detective William Hursel arriving at the scene of the equally grisly murder of Chris’ mother, and when he examines the boy’s room for clues, he finds lots of memorabilia of the iconoclastic heavy-metal band Rehoboam. Hursel realizes that the boy is devoted to the band, but when he questions Chris’ girlfriend, Gina, she sets him straight on his preconceived ideas: “He isn’t into drugs or devil worship or any of that,” she says. “He listens to Rehoboam because the lyrics are intelligent.” The narrative then follows Rehoboam’s leader, Josh Sebala, who has scars of his own from his harsh upbringing by his strict Baptist preacher father. Although he suffers from nightmares, he knows that he has it good: Rehoboam is a success, and he’s found the love of his life in a girl named Lindsey Leif. But the narrative steadily darkens; Josh gradually loses control of his life, and fugitive Chris gradually enters a dark world of sexual perversion and human trafficking. Through it all, Hursel doggedly moves from crime scene to crime scene in Chris’ wake. Hickmon weaves these separate plots together with an unforced ease, as when he effectively portrays Rehoboam’s struggling early years in well-deployed flashbacks. The narrative’s lean, unadorned prose becomes intensely involving as the plot hastens to its climax and Chris becomes linked in the press with the heavy-metal band he loves so much.
A strange and effective debut novel about the powerful dynamics of father-son relationships and the casual violence of amoral subcultures.