Deluxe Hardcover Edition, $24.95,
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
As most people who read my reviews already know, I’m a huge fan of Robert McCammon’s and have been since Baal was first published back in 1978. The last thirty-five years have certainly been a great period for horror fans with the coming of Stephen King, and then Robert McCammon, Dean Koontz, Charles Grant, Ramsey Campbell, F. Paul Wilson, and later Dan Simmons, followed by Joe R. Lansdale, Tom Piccirilli, Bentley Little, Ray Garton, Craig Spector & John Skipp, David Silva, Christopher Golden, John Everson, Joe Hill, and so many other fabulous authors.
I don’t know what the future holds, but the past is certainly golden in every sense of the word.
Well, I’m happy to say that Robert McCammon is still at it with his new “Matthew Corbett” novel, The River of Souls. This books isn’t as thick as his other “Corbett” novels, but it is definitely as beautiful to look at and as entertaining to read as Mister Slaughter and The Providence Rider were.
When I first heard the premise for The River of Souls (Corbett going down to the Carolinas to escort a Southern Belle to a ball, and then getting caught up in a search for runaway slave on the Solstice River), I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book as much as the others. Well, Robert McCammon never disappoints his readers and delivers an explosive tale in The River of Souls of one young man’s search for justice against the horrors of the lynch-mob mentality and the curses that plague the river of souls.
To escape New York for a short while and his strong feelings for Berry Grigsby, Matthew Corbett accepts what appears to be a simple assignment and easy money for the Herrald Agency. He’s to make his way back to Charles Town, where he lived in his earlier years, and escort a spoiled rich girl to a fancy ball. Of course, she’s beautiful, and Corbett quickly learns why someone from the outside had to be brought in so she could attend the yearly dance.
One thing swiftly leads to another, and Corbett soon finds himself traveling up the Solstice River with two-dozen others in search of three runaway slaves, one of which may have or may not have murdered the daughter of a plantation owner.
This is a journey fraught with danger from a menacing lynch mob who’s determined to kill the slaves and collect the huge reward in gold, a river filled with hungry, vicious alligators, murdering savages who like cutting off the heads of their captives and playing a type of soccer with them, and to a large, unidentifiable beast that haunts the nearby swamp, waiting for the right moment to strike, watching the men in the boats with yellow, piercing eyes.
Matthew Corbett will learn about the worse of humanity, but also the best in this quest that nearly brings about his own death. There are things out in the dark swamps more deadly than Professor Fell, and Corbett is about to encounter them with full force.
Needless to say, I found myself thoroughly enjoying Corbett’s return to the Carolinas and his journey for justice into the dark soul of the night.
Unlike a number of other readers, I thought this story was pure McCammon through and through. Though Corbett’s other cohorts are only in the story for a few pages, it seemed apropos that the lead character be on his own throughout most of this exciting adventure. I certainly felt the writing was tight, and the many characters in the book to be fully fleshed out. I’m from North Carolina and know how quickly the swamps can swallow you up, if you’re not careful.
If you’re never read the “Matthew Corbett” series, I would say to start with the first novel, Speaks the Nightbird. From there, read them in order: Speaks the Nightbird, The Queen of Bedlam, Mister Slaughter, The Providence Rider, and The River of Souls.
This book series would make a great television show for either Showtime or HBO. Do one book a season until the series is finished, or the viewers lose interest. From what I understand Mr. McCammon has plans to write five more “Corbett” novels before the book series is finished for him. I still think Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire look young enough to play the lead role.
Next up for McCammon will be The Border, followed by the second in the I Travel By Night series, and then the next “Matthew Corbett” novel. 2015 will be the year for Robert R. McCammon.