Bad Ideas Press (October 14, 2023)
Reviewed by Elaine Pascale
A serial killer is on the loose in North Carolina. This killer has an affinity for children and may be the first indigenous serial killer on record. Carl Spaberg, a reporter blacklisted from the more respectable news outlets, wants the lead on the story. His attempts to ingratiate himself to members of the tribe goes awry especially as the police chief, a no-nonsense Native American with ties to everyone in town, is making sure that no information is leaked. His best bet is a man who is, by all accounts, over 120 years old. And the most that Carl learns from him is to “beware the thunder.”
Spearfinger is the story of the ancient U’tlun’ta, a statue-creature with an appetite for children’s livers. I always enjoy uncovering new mythologies and new monsters and U’tlun’ta is an interesting one. Smales injects this creature feature with conflicts of facts vs the supernatural, personal credibility, and lack of faith in the ancient ways.
Carl Spaberg is somehow unlikeable but sympathetic at the same time. He is filled with great regret but stubbornly refuses to learn from his past. Smales has promised (or threatened?) to write more stories in the Carl Spaberg saga. I would certainly be interested in reading another escapade starring the reporter. In addition to Carl, Spearfinger contains a quilt of regional characters; most only appear for a few pages, yet they are all fully realized.
I have long been a fan of Rob Smales, so I was looking forward to reading Spearfinger. To say I was not disappointed would be an understatement. I can confidently say this was one of my favorite reads of the year.