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Bloodletting / Michael McBride

Delirium Books / March 2009
Reviewed by: JG Faherty

Move over, Preston and Child, step aside James Rollins, there’s a new fellow coming up fast behind you. His name is Michael McBride, and with his new book, Bloodletting, he’s giving notice that he’s a force to be reckoned with, not only in horror but in the mainstream action/thriller genre as well.

Looking back, I can see the progression in McBride’s writing that’s led to this point, from solid horror with a bit of action thrown in (The Infected), to more of a mix of the two genres (the God’s End trilogy), culminating in Bloodletting, a tightly-written, suspenseful, action-packed thriller filled with sudden twists, believable characters, and cutting edge science.

Bloodletting follows FBI Special Agent Paxton Carver as he attempts to track down a particularly vicious and demented serial killer. Carver is an agent with a reputation for always finding his man, but in this case the killer - or killers - remains elusive, staying one step ahead and taunting Carver with some seriously sick clues.

Along the way, Carver has to deal with mysteriously mummified remains, bodies drained of blood and organs, genetic anomalies, butchered corpses, amoral Nazi scientists, and more than one attack on his own life. He’s also trying to figure out how his case and two others keep overlapping, as if they’re all related. But that would mean something larger is going on, something that dates back decades.

As if that’s not enough, his high school sweetheart is somehow involved, possibly as the killer’s next target, there’s a mole in the FBI, and he’s being forced to work with a group of agents who not only seem to be operating as rogues, but appear to have more than a few habits in common with the psychopaths they’re tracking.

Carver’s search for the truth takes him through enough loops and sudden turns to keep the reader on his or her toes without descending into confusion, and McBride uses his words like a painter uses a fine brush, building suspense, teasing the reader along, and never resorting to stereotypical characters or plot devices. Even the secondary characters have distinct, realistic personalities, and they all play key, entertaining roles in the story as it evolves.

In the end, McBride closes Bloodletting in just the right fashion, providing closure while at the same time effectively setting up the opportunity for a sequel. In fact, in Paxton Carter, McBride has created a character around whom an entire series of books could be built, much the same as Preston and Child have done with Special Agent Pendergast.

By incorporating Mayan and Incan history together with his personal background in the biological sciences, McBride produces a scenario that is frighteningly chilling because of the potential for the events in his tale to become a reality in the not-so-distant future.

Without hesitation, I can say Bloodletting is the best book I’ve read in a long, long time. I recommend it to everyone, not just horror aficionados. In a story filled with surprises, the real question is why one of the big publishing houses hasn’t picked him up yet. While Delirium has done a fine production job, I can imagine Bloodletting achieving major nationwide sales if it had the backing of a larger company behind it.

In the end, McBride has taken his writing to a new level, and I for one am happy to climb along with him for the ride.

Purchase Bloodletting by Michael McBride.

Posted on Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 08:34AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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