I'm torn over this review. I think, given that this is a first novel, it's a good effort but falls short. I like zombie stories, but there are so many that are rehashes of the same old story that it's hard to identify the gems with the huge volume of slush. This isn't slush, but I wouldn't call it a gem either. There are some sparkles -- enough that I would pick up a sequel if one comes out -- but I found the story lacking in too many ways to be a true gem.
I've read through the reviews here that point out the fresh take, and the surprising twists. I really did find that, for the most part, the plot is very predictable. Maybe it's because I read a lot of horror, and a fair amount of zombie material, but I did not find a lot of surprises here. There was one nice, tiny twist at the end that I enjoyed. I say nice, because I wasn't expecting it and it was well timed. I say tiny because there was opportunity for so much more, and the way it played out I don't know why it made such a huge difference in the story. I can't say any more than that without giving it away.
I thought it took too long to get rolling. It's a short book, and I was halfway through before we got to the meaty action (there were appetizers before that point, but I had to wait too long for the meal!). There was plenty of tension early, and it built up throughout the story, but it seemed to take forever to get to the "good stuff." Early on, I kept going, "Ah-hah! Here we go!" only to feel like the author was jamming on the breaks a page or two later.
Above I said I'd buy a sequel, given my criticisms so far that may be tough to buy, but here's why. For one thing, the ending just sets itself up for a sequel. It's not a cliff hanger ending that left me feeling cheated by any means. I felt satisfied with the ending ,however, I did want more. The final 50-60 pages or so, the story moves along at a great pace and the tension builds up to what I thought was a solid ending. The writing was solid (not juvenile in the least). However, the main reason I'd look this author up again is that I felt like I was seeing him develop and grow as I turned from page to page. That may sound weird, but you know how when you read an author's earlier works you see the weaknesses that they've addressed, how they've developed from one novel to the next, and how they've grown and honed their craft? I saw this writer grow as the book progressed. The writing tightened up, the descriptions were more consistant, the story was better paced (and I don't mean it was non-stop action; there was tension build up, let off, varied pace, etc.), and I felt more in touch with the characters. Sandusky really hit his stride in those last 60 or so pages, and I find myself looking forward to his next release -- I'm hoping and expecting, if he starts where he left off, it will be a gem.
Last note -- I like the cover :) Its creepy, B-horror style makes me both smile and shiver at the same time.