Black Mountain by Laird Barron
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received a free advance copy from NetGalley for review.
A former Mafia hit man turned private detective hunts down a serial killer who also used to moonlight as a mob hit man? Man, I really wanted to love this book. Sadly, I didn’t.
Isaiah Coleridge was introduced to us in Blood Standard, and to say that his backstory is complex is an understatement. He used to make his home in Alaska where he worked as a top notch killer for the Outfit, but after he had a bloody falling out with one of the bosses Isaiah was exiled to in upstate New York. Determined to leave his old ways behind Isaiah has become a private detective, but he also doesn’t mind jobs where his skills as an enforcer might come in handy. He also has to maintain a delicate relationship with the local mobsters so when one of them comes to him with an ugly job Isaiah is in no position to refuse.
Two of the local thugs have been murdered in gruesome ways, and the boss wants to know if they’re connected and who might be behind it. Isaiah reluctantly begins to check out it out and quickly learns that a legendary hit man long thought retired or dead might be behind it. It also turns out that this guy’s hobby when not killing people for money was killing people for fun. If the mob connections weren’t bad enough it also seems like this man might have ties to the military and there’s some very rich people in the mix as well. Despite his plate being pretty full Isaiah also has taken on a gig trying to protect a local woman from a family of thugs because she's dating the ex of one of them.
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And it is. Frankly, it’s too much. This was my problem with the first book, too. There’s a great concept with an ex-mob hit man trying to kinda go straight but getting tangled up in bloody messes. However, everything has to get so complicated that it all gets bogged down as Isaiah just pinballs from one thing to the next. The core story of an ex-hit man hunting a legendary ex-hit man is great, but the bad guy can’t just be an insane serial killer too. He also has to be wrapped up in a vast conspiracy that is pretty ridiculous so I guess mob killer/serial killer just wasn’t enough.
And that’s kind of the problem to all of it. Barron has good ideas and is a capable writer, but he just never knows when to stop adding layers to the cake and focus on shaping the elements he already has into something edible. Eventually it just collapses on itself from it's own weight. For example, the big subplot in this book is dumped to the back burner and is pretty much resolved with a couple of sentences late in the book as action that we don't see. So it was just a distraction in an already overstuffed book.
There’s the core of a really cool character and series here, but it took too much effort for me to dig it out. More bloody violence and less plot, please.
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