Zakk reviews A Coin for Charon by Dallas Mullican

The Eyes of Madness presents “Simple reviews from a simple reader…”


Zakk reviews “A Coin for Charon” by Dallas Mullican. 281 pages formerly published by Winlock Press (currently out of print).

“Though the killer attempted to tidy up after himself, we found traces of blood in the tub, on the floor, and on the bathroom walls. Once the body was drained of blood, he removed the organs, washed them clean, and brought them here for this totem. Impossible to remove all the blood in such a way, so you see the halos outlining each. Still, all in all, quite impressive.”

Synopsis:

Gabriel isn’t murdering anyone―he’s saving them.

The media has dubbed him the Seraphim Killer. He believes the gods have charged him to release the chosen, those for whom life has become an unbearable torment. Gabriel feels their suffering—his hands burn, his skull thunders, his stomach clenches. Once they are free, he places coins on their eyes to pay Charon for passage into paradise.

Detective Marlowe Gentry has spent the past two years on the edge. The last serial killer he hunted murdered his wife before his eyes and left his young daughter a mute shell. Whenever she looks at him, her dead eyes push him farther into a downward spiral of pain and regret. He sees the Seraphim as an opportunity for revenge, a chance to forgive himself―or die trying.

Gabriel performs the gods’ work with increasing confidence, freeing the chosen from their misery. One day, the gods withdraw the blessing―a victim he was certain yearned for release still holds the spark of life. Stunned, he retreats into the night, questioning why the gods have abandoned a loyal servant. Without his calling, Gabriel is insignificant to the world around him.

He will do anything to keep that from happening.

“Gabriel’s view of death had changed dramatically over the years since his father died. It held little fear for him. Instead, it whispered a promise he could not quite make out, but one that stoked curiosity and excitement. Deep down, he knew with certainty that what waited beyond the veil would be wondrous.

He saw the peace on the faces of the dead—those who wished for it and welcomed it. Gabriel still had many miles to go before he slept. The undiscovered country Hamlet contemplated in his musings, yet avoided in his actions, sang to Gabriel in a sweet song. He would not fear its approach.”

A Coin for Charon, my first read form Dallas Mullican, and the first book in his Detective Marlowe Gentry series, is an enjoyable, multi-faceted dark fiction read. Pulling cues equally from horror, psychological thriller & crime fiction while throwing in a pinch of twisted humor, falling into the world of Detective Gentry is an easy task.

The main antagonist here is Gabriel. His actions, the root cause and triggers of his actions, and the way his backstory unfolds makes for a fascinating character. His narrative had me connected completely and the manner in which he executes his calling is devilishly entertaining. Plenty of graphic splatter, polar opposite to Gabriel’s mannerisms. It’s a good time.

The two other threads fleshing out this read are also enjoyable. Marlowe’s first, detrimental, run in with a mass/ serial killer is heavy and heartbreaking. This narrative brings some tense moments. Then you have Becca, a psychologist, treating a patient who’s hiding terminal cancer from his family while dealing with an abusive husband. Her thread has some solid moments as well.

Mr. Mullican reels you in early and keeps a pretty frantic pace throughout. There’s plenty of tension about, plus some fantastic grotesque scenes and set pieces. Plus it is populated by a solid cast of characters, different ideals & different personalities shining through.

If I had to give this book a knock it would be the dialog. It feels a bit familiar. Mainly the back n’ fourth between Marlow and his partner Spencer and the bulk of the scenes involving policing/ detective work. It could be spot on accurate to how officers banter in the field, I’m hardly an expert on this, it just feels a bit “Law & Order”. As if you already know what witty retorts are going to be lobbed between characters. It’s a small thing, definitely not a deal breaker and some readers my not feel the same, but dialog is the main aspect I connect with in any read.

I also wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending to one of the narratives. I don’t want to give anything away, and other readers may feel differently. The punch of this thread is pretty rad, it plays out nicely and has a great cinematic quality to it, but I felt that not having a key character involved seemed like a missed opportunity at said characters personal growth. Again, you may see this differently.

All in all, I’d say A Coin for Charon is a pretty great read and I am excited to see where Detective Marlow Gentry goes from here.

“Hold your taters, amigo. Life. Purpose. Death. It’s ambiguous.”

Overall score: 4/ 5

Zakk is a big dumb animal!

**Note: I received a review copy of this book from the author on the promise of an honest review. These are my unbiased feelings.


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