Zakk reviews “Sentinels” by Matt Manochio. 274 pages published by Samhain Horror.
Overall score: 4.5/5
“I go to sleep every night wondering how my father managed to live without knowing what happened to me. He woke up one morning with a son and went to bed that night without one. What kind of torment was he going through knowing I was in the bowels of that damned boat? Chained like an animal in the hot belly of that ship. They stored us, Noah. Like cargo.”
These are no ordinary killers.
They don’t distinguish between good and evil. They just kill. South Carolina’s a ruthless place after the Civil War. And when Sheriff’s Deputy Noah Chandler finds seven Ku Klux Klansmen and two Northern soldiers massacred along a road, he cannot imagine who would murder these two diametrically opposed forces.
When a surviving Klansman babbles about wraiths, and is later murdered inside a heavily guarded jail cell, Noah realizes something sinister stalks his town. He believes a freed slave who’s trying to protect his farm from a merciless land baron can help unmask the killers. Soon Noah will have to personally confront the things good men must do to protect their loved ones from evil.
“Can’t take your rifle everywhere. Keep at it, he thought.
Confident he progressed enough so he wouldn’t shoot himself, Noah squared and focused on the shiny middle can.
He cocked, gripped, drew, pointed, aimed and fired, and picked off a squirrel he didn’t even know had shielded itself (or so it thought) within the high oak branches behind the fence. The dead critter hit the ground with a final thump and a squeak.
Then he looked on the bright side: At least I hit something.
Noah kept at it: Gunshot and silence, gunshot and silence. Over and over. I’ve got to go to work soon.
Gunshot and silence. Gunshot and silence.
Never a clink of a can.”
“Sentinels”, my first read from Matt Manochio is a very enjoyable tale of a family surviving against intolerance, greed & power. I dig pieces that intermingle historical eras and horror. The landscapes and personalities here feel genuine to the era, from the weariness of the newly freed slaves to the scathing contempt of entitled, wealthy land owners, and all the others falling on either side of the Civil War divide. All finding their way in this wild frontier.
The dialogue doesn’t quite feel historically accurate, granted I am not schooled enough in this era to really tell you one way or the other, what I can say is that it is solid and interesting, fluid and entertaining, lending itself to the differing personalities inhabiting the read.
There are plenty of graphic action scenes, just to wet your whistle, and some memorable visuals that really help set the mental scene. While flipping through these pages it was easy to imagine this book playing out on a large screen, which makes getting lost in the tale the much easier.
As far as the supernatural element goes, it could have easily been handled in a ham-fisted fashion. In contrast to the harsh and heavy racial tension, it was actually pleasantly subtle. Building on itself, eerie and purposeful. Culminating in a satisfying payoff during a fantastic ending sequence.
With loyalties not playing out like you think they might (there are clues that are deft enough to be missed) and some not quite expected sleights-of-hand “Sentinels” is a hell of a good time and I’ll definitely be reading more from Mr. Manochio.
Trigger warning: This book takes place in the 1870’s, so their is a fair amount of racial insensitivity . It’s not overdone or mean spirited (and not nearly as harsh as a Lansdale yarn), just a reflection of history. Just thought you should know.
Put “Sentinels” on a playlist with Russell R. James’ “Blood Red Roses”
“’This ain’t right,’ Franklin said. ‘Who the hell digs their own grave?’”
Zakk is a big dumb animal!
The Mouths of Madness Podcastshow
P.S. Take a drink every time Noah takes a blow to the head. When you regain consciousness finish the book, cause I know you’re going to love how it ends. 🙂
“We need to escape this God-forsaken wasteland of inbred hatred.”
*Note: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, these are my honest feelings.
Matt Manochio was born in 1975 in New Jersey and graduated from The University of Delaware in 1997 with a history/journalism degree.
He spent the majority of his 13-year newspaper career at the Daily Record in Morris County, New Jersey, where he won multiple New Jersey Press Association Awards for his reporting. He wrote about one of his passions, rock ‘n’ roll giants AC/DC, for USA Today and considers that the highlight of his journalism career.
He left newspapers in 2011 for safer employment, and currently lives in New Jersey with his son.
“Matt Manochio is a natural born storyteller.” -Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Savage Dead
“A real page turner. Matt Manochio has gained a fan in me!” -David L. Golemon, New York Times bestselling author of the Event Group Thriller series, on The Dark Servant
“Beautifully crafted and expertly plotted. A clockwork mechanism of terror! Highly recommended!” -Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Shattered, on The Dark Servant