Written by Tim Waggoner
Published by Leisure Books
What a great thing it is to be reviewing Leisure’s new releases every month, let me tell you. For the longest time I’ve felt like, when it came to horror fiction, I was more out of the loop than a suburban soccer mom who thinks Clive Barker is a delightful game show host. Thanks to the great folks at Leisure, though, I’m shown the latest horror every month and get to discover some great authors I would’ve never known about if it weren’t for Leisure. Tim Waggoner has just jumped to the top of that list.
Like Death (a cool-sounding title that really has nothing to do with the story that I could discern) follows the rather sad life of Scott Raymond, a true-crime writer who’s recently been left by his wife and child after he took out some pent-up aggressions on the two of them. He never struck or abused them, just some yelling and shaking, but it was enough for his wife to see what might be coming and she got out.
Now he’s in a new town (moving right behind his wife to stay as close to his son as possible) and working on a new book about child abductions. The center point for his book will be the story of Miranda Tanner, a 6-year-old who vanished into thin air one day on the way home from school in broad daylight. In his quest to find out what may have happened to her, he meets another girl with the same name and oddly similar features, though she’s at least 15 years the senior of the missing girl. The older Miranda shows Scott things that, at first, he cannot believe exist, that he must be losing his mind and this Miranda is just a symptom of his madness. The truth is far worse than he ever expected, however, and a lot of people might have to die before he figures it all out.
Like Death is such a well-written, fast paced, horrifically gory novel that it instantly became one of my favorite books that I’ve read from not just Leisure, but any other publisher or author in recent memory. Waggoner makes Scott both sympathetic and incredibly real at the same time, his talent lying in making the character’s thought patterns follow the same twists and turns that we all face on a day to day basis, demonstrating that Waggoner spent a lot of time getting to know his character before he wrote about him. That, or he’s just really damn good.
I mentioned the gore; let me give you an idea of just how descriptive Waggoner can be. When describing a confrontation between Scott and the “bad guy” (and good luck figuring out who that is before Waggoner wants you to know), the very ground the two of them are on is described as “scabrous flesh”. When a knife is dropped and plunged into the ground, it begins to ooze forth a pus-like substance and shivers as if injured. A swing set in park that is the focal point for some of the early action is “for wheelchairs only.” When someone accidentally lands in it during a confrontation, the swing manipulates the bone structure of its victim to make sure he meets that requirement, and the results are not pretty in the least. The most bizarre sex scene I think I’ve ever read the details of takes place here as well, giving new definition to the term “gang bang.” Where does he get his ideas?
Like Death is an incredibly unique book, one of those that’s hard to describe in just a few paragraphs and would more than likely suffer because of such a brief synopsis. Suffice it to say Waggoner utilizes some original ideas in both plot and action and has the ability to call forth images that’ll stick in your head long after you put the book down. Think Ed Lee on his absolute best day and you’ll be pretty close to what Tim’s writing is like.
Even though the title doesn’t make a lot of sense, that cover is so eye-catching that it’s enough to make anyone give the book a second glance, which it surely deserves. Seek this out and devour Like Death, you won’t be disappointed. And keep an eye out for Waggoner, if he sticks to our genre for a while (he’s mostly done fantasy and mystery before), we could have a new force to reckon with.
4 1/2 out of 5
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