I've been a fan of Brian A. Hopkins's short fiction for years. He has a way of bringing the reader into the depths of a character's mind and soul, whether they want to be there or not. I find myself being dropped into his stories, rather than simply reading them. You don't even know it's happening until you're done, and exhausted. It's a sure sign of a smooth and confident writing style. However, picking up Brian's first full-length novel, I didn't know what to expect. I mean, with a title like The Licking Valley Coon Hunter's Club, I had to assume it was going to be a LITTLE lighter than his usual fare. My assumption was correct, but the crisp writing, the feeling that you, as the reader, are in the story rather than simply an outsider, is there as much as ever.
Without rehashing the plot as earlier reviews have done, I WILL say that this book starts with a bang, grabs you by the hair and drags you along on one of the most bizarre and wild adventures I've read in a long time. I was bruised and bullied as badly as Mr. Zolotow, and loved every minute of it. I found myself hoping the author would keep up the break-neck pace until the end, like a kid on a carnival ride not wanting it to ever stop. He didn't disappoint. We occasionally leap into the past, to a quiet interplay between Martin and a police psychiatrist, and the subtle mind games each play against the other, but we're in these moments only long enough to catch our breath, when the ride starts up again.
Is this a horror novel? Well, sort of. I'd be more likely to classify it as an action/mystery story. Take the fun of a Grafton, the action and violence of Block, a likeable main character as you might find in a Hillerman novel, put them together with the voice and style of one of the best new writers out there today, and you've got an eclectic, fast-paced, sometimes-nasty but always-fun read.