3 AND 1/2 STARS
This is definitely one of Bryan Smith's better horror novels. Visceral and highly charged, the first half reminded me a lot of the late, great Richard Laymon. Smith focuses on a select group of characters and their rather graphic killing spree, mainly set over a week of rampant slaughter. There are quite a few scenes of violence that will make even most jaded reader uncomfortable. Although most of the characters, on the surface, are not very likable, the female killer, Roxie, is written with meticulous care. The author nicely balances her violent acts with just enough eroticism that you find yourself ashamed to be so attracted to her.
I did feel the motivations for a lot of the killings were questionable, at best. But you can ignore those details because it is clear this book is meant for pure entertainment and to shock and keep the reader, along with the characters, constantly guessing as to what will happen next. One element that hurt the story for me was that the plot was too dependent on coincidence; not a single witness around during the violent outbreaks, people being at the wrong place at exactly the wrong time, and random violence happening outside of the main story arc (the bar beating, etc.). What are the chances all this would happen over the course of a week?
I will admit really enjoying this book until the scene at the Walgreens store, about 60 pages from the end. It was here that I felt the story's reality begin to slip into the absurd and lose a little credibility. Author Smith still manages to tie things up nicely with an effective, if gratuitous, climax. The aftermath seemed a touch pedestrian and rather expected, but, even with its flaws, I can still confidently say this novel remains a very good read.