First published back in March of 2013, ‘The Killings’ was co-written by US authors J.F. Gonzalez and Wrath James White; offering up a true-crime-meets-supernatural-horror storyline that’s drenched in no-holds-barred violence and gore.

DLS Synopsis:
In June of 1911, Atlanta’s African American community found themselves in the grip of a sadistic serial killer.  The victims all young, bi-racial women from the neighbourhood.  Each one viciously savaged, mutilated and their mangled bodies discarded in the surrounding area.  The authorities are struggling to pull together any leads.  And with each Saturday night that goes by, another young woman is subjected to the sadistic urges of the serial killer plaguing their streets.

With little to no leads, the police draft in temporary detectives from the street.  Black men from the neighbourhood who will hopefully be able to obtain a better response to their questioning from the African American community.  For Henry Parker, as one of the most powerful and feared criminals in this section of Atlanta, he needs someone he can trust on the inside.  A small but persuasive suggestion to his lifelong friend, Robert Jackson, gets the young barber to volunteer his time to join the investigation.  But even with these temporary detectives on the streets of Atlanta, the heinous killings continue.  And they know that the streets will be splattered with the blood and guts of the neighbourhood’s young women until the killer is caught.

A whole century later and Atlanta is being terrorized by another streak of killings.  Investigative reporter for the Atlanta Constitution, Carmen Mendoza, has begun to look into the killings.  A link is beginning to emerge between those committed back in 1911, another series of brutal murders that occurred during the 1980s, and now those plaguing the Atlanta streets today.

Initially her investigation homes in on the infamous Atlanta Child Murderer, Wayne Williams.  A convinced serial murderer who has been incarcerated in the Georgia State Prison since his arrest during the 1980s.  A man with no hope of release but who maintains his innocence to the crimes.  And he eventually reveals a name.  Grandma Sable.  A powerful practitioner of voodoo who is said to have lived well in excess of 120 years.  A women who became enraged by the terrible mistreatment of her kin, and so unleashed a curse.  A curse that would possess people and feed their hate.  But the evil never stopped.  And it’s been killing ever since she unleashed it a hundred years ago…

DLS Review:
Authors J.F. Gonzalez and Wrath James White begin the novel with a small Authors’ Note detailing the true crime background to the story’s plot; providing the reader with suggested further reading on both the Atlanta Ripper murders (1911) as well as those of the Atlanta child killings of Wayne Williams (1979-81).  Although short and to the point, this leading disclosure brings about a certain air of reality to the story which ultimately lingers at the back of the readers’ mind.  Okay, so a vast amount of the novel is purely fabricated for fiction’s sake, but nestling behind the heinous events that are about to unfold lies those hard-hitting nuggets which are based upon real historical fact, allowing the horror to dig just that little bit deeper under your skin.

In essence what we have with ‘The Killings’ is a true crime novel crossed with supernatural horror injected with pure unashamed splatterpunk.  Let’s face it; you were never going to have a subtle reimagining of these serial murders with authors like Gonzalez and White on board.  The cover alone promises brutality, bloodshed, extreme violence and a no-holds-barred approach to delivering said aspects in absolute abundance.  And oh sweet Jesus does it deliver just that.

For those that have read the likes of John Paul Allen’s ‘Gifted Trust’ (2003) there’s a great amount of similarities to be found between it and ‘The Killings’ in their dual-running past-and-present construction.  Indeed, ‘The Killings’ bounds back-and-forth between 1911 and 2011 almost chapter-by-chapter.  Furthermore, we have Wayne Williams’ string of murders slotting in between; making for a novel that continuously spans the entire century.

But at the root of it all is a story, and a character, that embeds a chilling supernatural unease into everything.  Grandma Sable is pure Stephen King meets James Herbert sculpting.  A once-slave who harnessed terrible dark powers, which caused repercussions across the century that followed.  It’s a classic horror premise that holds the entire story together.  And by the blood and entrails of all the young victims that followed does it not just get you by your short and curlies and chill you to the core.

But it’s not just murder and creepy horror that ‘The Killings’ delivers.  Remember who we’ve got penning this delightful tale of serial killings.  Expect gratuitous violence and lashings of stomach-churning gore punctuating the many crimes.  Indeed, the first half of the novel in particular unleashes copious amounts of Shaun Hutson style splatterpunk, with more evisceration and wallowing in the innards of the victims than you can shake a blood-caked straight-razor at.

Furthermore, alongside the straight-for-the-jugular horror and violence that Gonzalez and White bring to the table there’s another equally disturbing element.  Because of the 1911 timeline which takes a predominant place in the tale, the storyline inherently incorporates some deeply emotive elements of America’s historic racial injustices. This alone is tough reading, even without the interwoven serial killings and added horror.  There’s one thing’s for sure, Gonzalez and White aren’t going to give their readers an easy ride with this offering.

The question is, how well do all these individual pieces stitch together?  It’s certainly a Frankenstein’s Monster of a tale.  Ultimately it works.  But at times, it has to be said that it can feel a little too overcrowded with interwoven plots.  There’s the Grandma Sable backbone that connects all the whole patchwork together; but it nevertheless leaves a disjointed feeling behind it all.  This was certainly not intentional, but it’s sadly a product of the novel’s whole construction.

Nevertheless, what you have with ‘The Killings’ is still a truly brutal novel that craves the bloodshed as much as it does that feeling of lingering unease.  It twists together fact and fiction, until a mutated monster has risen from the steaming guts of the authors’ joint creation.

The novel runs for a total of 171 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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