Friday, November 9, 2012

Desperate Souls by Gregory Lamberson

In this action-packed novel, Jake Helman—the ex-cop and zombie killer—has set up shop as a private investigator in lower Manhattan. When a woman hires Jake to prove that her dead grandson is dealing a deadly new drug called “Black Magic” on a Brooklyn street corner, Jake uncovers a plot by a vicious drug lord to use voodoo in an effort to seize the streets of New York City. Gun-wielding zombie assassins, hallucinations, and betrayals confront Jake at every corner, but voodoo creates more terror than zombies, and Jake finds himself poised on the edge of insanity as he fights to restore the soul of the one person he trusts. A combination of hard-core horror and hard-boiled crime fiction, this thriller is gripping and suspenseful.

Gregory Lamberson’s Jake Helman returns in the sequel to Personal Demons.  The former NYPD widower is now a private investigator who stumbles into a voodoo infused mystery.
Desperate Souls starts hard and fast and is damned gripping.  Lamberson seamlessly interweaves the events from Personal Demons into the early chapters without bogging the narrative down in needless exposition.  This sequel works well, because the outcomes from Personal Demons play pivotal roles in the novel.
Lamberson writes Helman incredibly well.  The P.I influenced attitude of our favorite noir tropes avoids cliché because of how well developed Helman’s character is.  With femme fatals, corruption, drugs and stand offs; the pulp mystery of yesteryear is alive and well without ever becoming durative.
The supporting players are strongly conceived avoiding characters that feel like nothing more than monster/or zonbie fodder. 
The mystery Helman investigates plays out well.  Lamberson peels back each layer slowly so that by the final reveal it all makes perfect sense.  The story is filled with blistering action sequences that are so well written no one feels safe, even Helman.(Who I knew has at least two more books)
Despite all these positives the story lost me.  There is a singular event that feels incredibly out of place and indicative of what I see as the weakness of a series. SPOILER HIGHLIGHT TO READ A key character is turned into a raven, and now Jake has a raven that can respond to verbal commands.  I know this is a story with Voodoo magic and other fantastical elements, but this felt cheesy and lacking the grit of the rest of the book.

Gregory Lamberson’s Desperate Souls blew me away when I began reading it.  Filled with amazing visuals, creative actions sequences and a well-constructed noir influenced mystery I was hooked.  A plot choice by Lamberson took me out of the story in the final stretch, but tastes are individual.  If you can roll with it you are in for an amazing read.   

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