"Hello Samantha … little Tommy was delicious …" - The Butcher
Samantha Brodie is a struggling Private Eye trying to eke out a living on the harsh streets of Glasgow. She still has nightmares of the case that ended her police career, the biggest in Scottish history involving a seemingly deranged serial killer. Her former partner Lauren Scott, also suffering some post-traumatic stress disorder, has fled to a new career with the Australian police in Geelong, Victoria. Their nemesis, nicknamed "the Butcher", was thought to be dead following a heavily armed police raid on a disused warehouse that went wrong, leaving a unit of tactical squad police slaughtered.
Lauren is dragged into a murder case that quickly spirals out of control as a serial killer starts slaughtering the local citizens at an accelerated rate. Nothing is left of the bodies except their livers, which was the calling card of "the Butcher"! Is Lauren, and later Samantha, facing a terror from their past or is there another answer? An old lady holds the key to the killer, but both women will need to confront Scottish mythology if they are to have any hope of surviving a serial killer who seems to be targeting them and worryingly closing in on them. There are surprises ahead as the true nature of their antagonist becomes apparent, will the women become the hunters or the hunted?
Keith Williams, here taking time out of his busy schedule of Sci-Fi orientate dark musings, visits with Celtic mythology in a modern police setting to throw a well past decent monster novel at the reader. There are links to preceding novels, but this is more a wink at the folk who have been reading Williams as each book is published, rather than an underlying narrative plot arc. We're still talking ancient evils visited upon the modern world, but for this novel Williams dials into mythology rather than a cosmic fundamental chaos that threatens to seep into peoples' lives. So in essence, and to cut a long story short, we're talking a good old fashion creature feature with some extras to spice up the novel. Added bonus for yours truly, was the Celtic angle, which proved to be the best exploration of "old country" beliefs since Joe Donnelly sent The Shee in our direction.
In the modern age it's pretty difficult to drag in a monster that Readers haven't run across umpteen times before, but Williams manages to do so without missing a step. Try this on for size, we're talking a little pony with razor sharp teeth and a tude, a monster that resembles Ripley's alien, always a favourite around these parts, an aquatic jaws hybrid, and the blood drenched topping, a honking big werewolf that doesn't give a toss about emo teen college girls. The whole package is wrapped in a stone cold killer that has a hunger for human flesh and apparently taunting various police forces. You'll have to read the book to find out how this all ties in, but take it from me you haven't quite run across anything like this monster before. Williams's bad boy makes King's Pennywise seem like Ronald MacDonald on a particular caring day.
While on the subject of King, since you had to bring up the Maine native, the dude has always been attacked for pretty much having poorly written female characters, that is in the books where he decided the ladies should take center stage. Williams will not face the same criticism, for our female Readers, hi mom, the Author has created a whole bunch of girl characters for you to get behind. Yes there might be monster underpinnings, but this one is for the chicks out there who like a good chilling read. Check out the book and then tell me if Williams hasn't got the female angle exactly right.
Guess I should also mention this novel is not for the squeamish, Williams isn't taking a backward step in painting some passages blood red with a dripping pen. When you're talking devoured bodies and numerous attacks on individuals, then you pretty much have to be ready for some carnage in your reading diet. Williams doesn't wallow in the gore, or rub the reader's nose in the viscera, but Beneath a Cold Moon isn't likely to make the reading list of your local book appreciation club. Naturally since this is ScaryMinds, we're all for some rampages through the body cavity, as long as it's handled with a modicum of style, and without being gore for gore's sake. Williams is red hot writing his passages, but in doing so is getting the atmosphere and tension flowing rather than dialling up any thoughts of gorenography.
As we have come to expect from Williams, the new novel is well written, doesn't leave ideas floating on the page, and gets where it's going without the reader ever being taken out of the narrative. The words flow magically and you will be drawn into the story and want to know what happens next. I initially took some time to get up to speed with the text, but decided to hell with it and set aside a Sunday to get my Beneath a Cold Moon on. Unfortunately it meant I finished the book at break neck speed, once Williams captures you with his prose you will find this one to be a page turner as the modern world clashes with ancient beliefs. Perhaps the only criticism I would send the novel's way was a slight contrivance to get our two lead gals into final confrontation mode with the monster, Williams doesn't normally drop into plot shenanigans to get things happening and I was left slightly disappointed with the chain of events that explained a certain character being at the right place at exactly the right time. Minor quibble Kids, forget I mentioned it, let's allow that one back to the keeper.
I'm going to cut this one short, before I really outstay my welcome and sum up. I've got a certain expectation when I open the covers of a new Keith Williams novel, and that expectation is to be entertained by a well written and tightly plotted story, with Beneath a Cold Moon Williams meet my expectations, waved good bye to them, and had me along on a ride to sheer enjoyment. This is the singularly best monster novel I've read this century; fingers crossed some enterprising film maker picks up the rights to this one. There's a bit of something in the prose for everyone, including some sexing up, so most readers should be rocking out as they finish the novel. It's not often that you run across a novel in this particular dark and secluded spot in the horror wood that is well written and conceived, but Williams has delivered exactly that. Once again a pleasure to dive into a Keith Williams novel that exceeds expectations, keeping the reader more than happy with the time spent in country. Full recommendation kids, this is not the novel you are going to want to miss.
Beneath a Cold Moon is available from all good online retailers, including Amazon who have various electronic offerings available. Equilibrium have a page dedicated to the novel right here. Surprisingly I don't think Keith Williams maintains a web site, probably too busy writing.