Mayhem Under the Moon
“FRENZY” by Pike Stephenson, 2016
There's a monster killing child murderers, gun-toting thugs, and rapists. Kinda makes us root for the monster, doesn't it?
Our hero, Detective Kyle Poole, is tasked with solving the mystery of who is killing the suspects in his murder investigations. But as he gets closer, he finds himself the killer's prime target. And worst of all, the killer has no desire to kill Poole; only to ruin his life.
Also on the case is Hal Dixon, ex-military sniper and/or assassin. He's also looking for the same killer. But he has an advantage over Poole; he knows what he's hunting for.
This is a fast-paced, gritty story, with interesting, well-drawn characters. Mind you, Poole is not a very likeable character. He's screwing two women and has his eyes on a third. He's abrasive to his partner, his boss, his fellow detectives, the public, and the press. Every time someone gives him good advice he instantly responds by belittling the person or calling them a liar. Why anyone likes him is the biggest mystery of all. And he's not a particularly good detective. When his behavior gets him suspended, the reader is left stunned—that he wasn't expecting it.
But Poole is believable and that's what counts. All the characters, from the heroes to the victims, are well-drawn and thought-out. I found it refreshing that some of the character's opinions of other characters actually improve as they allow themselves to see the person as a whole. And we see the real monster for who he is. Much of Stephenson's writing is pure hard-boiled prose, snappy and tight. He shows considerable potential as a mystery writer.
I loved the Serling-esque line: “He was a rodent who slipped in and out of view while the world blinked.” Or: “Words flew from her lips and collided in a thirty-phrase pile up.” There are several really good lines in the book. Stephenson has great insights into his characters and a good command of the language to describe them and the world they inhabit. His writing is sensual, describing the sights, sounds, and often the smells of the people and places, bringing his readers into the scenes he paints.
Unfortunately, there's quite a few distracting misspelled words and bad punctuation. Particularly cringe-worthy are “missed judged” for “misjudged”, “summersault”, and the chapter heading “NINTEEN”. We're also treated to “You've said your peace...” and “...a street gang loaded to bare” amongst other homophones.
An even worse problem is that frequently a paragraph consists of dialog from one character that's followed by an action from a different character. This becomes very confusing for a reader. The character speaking owns that paragraph and any action that follows should be that of the speaker. Any actions performed by another character belong in the following paragraph.
I hate to harp on the errors because the imagery and the characterizations are so good. As I've been saying frequently in my recent reviews, a good proofreader is worth their weight in gold.