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Coffin County / Gary Braunbeck

thBraunbeckCoffinCounty.jpgLeisure / May 2008
Reviewed by: Blu Gilliand

Cedar Hill, Ohio, is a tough place to live. It’s a blue-collar town where most people make a living doing back-breaking work, turning shifts in factories, standing on their feet all day, collecting meager wages and holding out hope that one day things will get just a little bit better. It’s a town full of the kind of honest, hardworking people who are the heart and backbone of the country.

But simmering underneath all of that apple pie and red-white-and-blue are dark and sinister forces, things that have bubbled up from the ground many times before in Cedar Hill’s history, and which are now reaching a boiling point.

Coffin County, Gary Braunbeck’s latest in a long line of Cedar Hill stories and novels, is that boiling point. In a compact 270 pages, Braunbeck weaves together many of the various events and characters his readers have met in previous Cedar Hill stories (the majority of which are gathered in two collections from Earthling Publications, Graveyard People and Home Before Dark, with a third – The Carnival Within – on the way) and novels (including In Silent Graves, Keepers, and Mr. Hands). However, readers new to Cedar Hill work shouldn’t avoid this book – the author skillfully brings everyone up to speed without slowing the action down. You’ll get all you need to know to enjoy this as a standalone novel, but make no mistake – it’s a richer reading experience if you’ve visited Cedar Hill already.

Coffin County is storytelling on a cosmic scale, but Braunbeck keeps events grounded in cold, hard reality. It starts off quickly with the destruction of a large chunk of the town, then shifts focus to the investigation of a massacre at a local diner. Here the story bogs down a bit, as forward momentum is nearly lost in detailing the intricacies of fingerprint identification technology. It’s interesting information, and it leads to more than one jaw-dropping revelation as to the nature of the events going down in Cedar Hill, but it seems like it could have been shortened a bit.

Fortunately, it’s not long before the pace picks up again. Events begin to spiral out of control, but it is chaos with a purpose. It soon becomes clear the perpetrator is really trying to get the attention of one man, a Cedar Hill resident who already has more to deal with than he can handle. The two do meet near the end of the book – but as readers will see, it’s more a beginning than an end.

There’s a lot going on in what appears on the surface to be the story of a killer hell-bent on destroying an entire town. It’s important to remember going in that Braunbeck isn’t just telling a story in the pages of this novel – he’s been telling one big story all along.

And what a story it is.

Purchase Coffin County by Gary Braunbeck.

Posted on Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 10:48AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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