The agonising wait from Beautiful, Naked and Dead wasn’t too long…… I suppose, and there was the short story in between that filled in a little of Moses’, the protagonist in both books, back story, but actually to be handed such a volatile second novel where one wrong move will lead this ticking time-bomb to explode into a million razor sharp shards of violent energy in your hands, is more than I could ever have hoped for from the brilliant Josh Stallings.
The second book is always tricky, especially after Moses McGuire, the red haired Viking loved by women and feared by men, strode onto the downtown stripper scene of L.A with such force in Beautiful, Naked and Dead.; a bouncer with a heart big enough to take away the pain of those lost women; those strong women who die a little more each day just to survive into the next but who has no care for his own life, believing that redemption is impossible.
Forget that then. Out There Bad goes way beyond anything that Stallings has written before. Let’s talk violence if that’s what you’re after. You’ll love the slasher assassin; moving in the shadows, tossing tarot cards on the bodies of victims, untouchable and invisible. Blood runs freely across many a page in spurts, rivulets and spray and you’d better watch out as you read or you might just get splattered as you stand there on the sidelines watching with gruesome awe the skilled knife work and deadly accuracy of the kill.
Then there are the guns. Moses loves his guns. I’m no expert but I think that you’d find it pretty difficult to name a gun that Moses doesn’t use somewhere in this tale of retribution, mercy and love and it’s just as well that Moses seems to be well stocked with firearms because this time he seems to be taking on the whole of Armenia with a few Mossad agents thrown in for good measure.
Moses, our hero, falls in love with Anya, a Russian stripper. She is the perfect woman that he has always dreamt of, the one he sees himself strolling off into the sunset with whilst throwing sticks into the surf for his beloved dog, Angel; his life as an avenging spirit finally over.
Well, like that’s going to happen! Moses, deep under her spell, promises to find her younger sister who has been lured to the Land of Dreams from her village in Russia with the hope of swimming pools and beautiful clothes. Instead, Nika finds herself trapped as a sex slave at the age of thirteen.
Most of the action takes place in Mexico where corruption at all levels is rife, allowing Moses to rampage as only he can, taking many blows and surviving degradation along the way.
This is not a tale for the feint-hearted. There are some scenes of the most heartbreaking depravity as Stallings describes the life that the young girls in captivity are made to endure and he doesn’t hold back as Moses is forced to face an evil that he will never recover from in his life; that will be there everyday as he looks into the mirror and sees his soul.
You will not be able to put Out There Bad down from the moment you pick it up and when you are finished you will start at the beginning again. Now I need to go away and put together the soundtrack to this book; it’s Clash time…crank up the guitars. Ahhhhhhhhh!
Fiona Johnson’s smashing blog is I Meant To Read That