A debut novel introduces an Iraq War veteran who has won a Pulitzer Prize but is still deeply troubled and his reclusive neighbor with an abusive husband and a dangerous boyfriend.
Will Bentley’s military memoir, I Can Hear the Shiite Weeping, has made him a celebrity. An incident at the opening of Molnar’s story bolsters this: Will and his dog, Alberta (nicknamed Albie), have stumbled on the lynching of an accused pedophile, a parish priest. Will cannot save Father Bingham, but he and Albie are feted for having intervened. Will found the much abused Albie while on patrol in Fallujah, and she is a key character in this unfolding tale. Will; his girlfriend, Mina; and Albie have a good life in Comstock, Pennsylvania. Then comes really ugly trouble. Will’s neighbors are the Posts. Jack travels a lot and Stella peeks through the curtains. She has no self-esteem, and Jack abuses her and preys on other women as well. But Stella might have a rescuer, an old high school classmate and ex-con named Karl Tarlick—who is even sicker and more twisted than she is. Karl is into the mystical arts, specifically Palo Mayombe, which can cause the transfer of consciousness, such as between a human and an animal. So readers will not be surprised when Karl and Stella kidnap Albie for their nefarious purposes. Horrendous and sickening things ensue for 200 pages. It is hard to judge this book. The writing is uneven (The Uber driver “cranked the stick shift into Park”); there are distracting word slips that become more frequent in the later pages (“baited” breath; “Your with me!”; “whose who”); and some readers will be crying uncle long before the end. There is gore galore, but that comes with the territory of horror. Palo Mayombe is a clever conceit and central to the plot, so what readers have here is a story ripped from the headlines but heightened with the preternatural. Still, the suspension of disbelief is fair game with this genre. And dog lovers will be both moved and horrified. If you liked The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this is definitely your cup of blood.
An inventive but gory abduction tale for hardcore horror fans.