Because Belcher isn’t busy enough writing an occult Western (The Shotgun Arcana, 2014) and a contemporary paranormal noir series (Nightwise, 2015), he begins a new contemporary horror/dark fantasy series with this novel.
A favored idea by conspiracy theorists and fantasy novelists sparks this story—that the Templars simply went underground when the church had their organization dissolved. Today, they are a network of truckers, state troopers, and the like known as the Brethren, guarding the American highway system against serial killers, murder cults, and monsters. Trucker Jimmy Aussapile follows a ghost hitchhiker to the soulless teen victims of Emile Chasseur, an immortal biker/serial killer who serves as votary of the Horned Man, the god Cernunnos. Aided by his new squire—a rash and probably not entirely human leader of a motorcycle gang—and a fierce New Orleans cop, he must travel to a Kansas town not found on any map before Chasseur can claim a new set of sacrifices. The historical Templars were a Catholic organization, so it seems odd that it’s not explained why the contemporary Brethren don’t seem to have much of a connection to religion at all. And modern pagans may not care for Belcher’s portrayal of Cernunnos (despite a quick speech about how he isn’t really evil, he eagerly accepts human sacrifices). Belcher maintains his sure touch with the truly creepy—a scene in which drunken college students are pursued by brutal shadow creatures is particularly chilling (and gory). It’s a fun read, but one can’t deny the mythos has considerable thematic overlap with his other two series.
Could Belcher be stretching himself too thin? Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, for now.