Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Stephen Romano
Hardcover, 336 pages, $25.99
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Seeing dead people comes with baggage. For Buck Carlsbad, the protagonist of Black Light, there is wear and tear on the body as well as the soul. Buck is a psychic bounty hunter, who ingests the spirits of those he captures. This is followed by a bizarre ritual of binging, on a disgusting liquid, and purging and then disposing of the regurgitated ghost into a funerary urn. The spectral fugitives are vile and full of bile, and the novel accentuates the negative aspects of their despicable lives. The narrative, however, is not a mere exercise in exorcism. Black Light is akin to a fast and furious ride on a bullet train; a means of transportation prominently featured in the yarn. Swiftly paced, and brimming with memorable characters, the book is a joyride of horror.
A luxury express train is being inaugurated: destination Las Vegas, departing from Los Angeles. Its trajectory crosses over territory known as “The Triangle;” a region with a reputation for nasty, riled revenants. Carlsbad is employed by a wealthy Mucky Muck to ostensibly provide supernatural surveillance during the excursion. His fellow passengers include a charismatic senator on the fast-track to the presidency; a hot female rock star who has unseen talents; movers and shakers in the film industry; and a well known TV newscaster. Machinations, mania, and cabals are also all aboard.
Buck’s personal odyssey, involving his mysterious parents and a shadowy past, gets more on track while he is assaulted and assailed by nefarious phantoms. The internal sensations of the battles are beautifully described: “I feel its living essence expand like a fist and land in every living cell of my body, burning years off my life in a flashfried instant, smoldering like napalm, swelling and then bursting again, spidercrawling my skin, like hot black blood pooling in my stomach, leeching my bones. It wants to possess me. It wants to take over my muscle reflexes and command my mind.”
Carlsbad gives as good as he gets. He’s skilled at self-defense in both the physical and clairvoyant sense, and can bring back concrete souvenirs from his forays into the dark and dangerous worlds that are privy to him.
While full of sinister, tenebrous happenings, Black Light is illuminated by patches of humor and an abundance of dazzling action scenes. Strongly visual, and reflecting the movie backgrounds of authors Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Stephen Romano, the tome is fueled by energetic prose. Momentum is expertly modulated, rendering a finely honed delightful divertissement.