Joe Reviews: Blood Standard by Laird Barron

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned sometime in the past that Laird Barron is one my favorite authors. He’s up there in my top five, fighting for the number one spot with Livia Llewllyn, China Mielville, Clive Barker, and Thomas Ligotti.

Blood Standard by Laird BarronI was leery of reading something not cosmic horror by Mr. Barron. Everyone else in the community seems to be a fan of this new work, so I figured I would dive in. This story is more of a crime thriller. It reminds of his novella, The Man with No Name, but without any supernatural bits.
So, the basis of the story: Isaiah Coleridge, the protagonist, is a mob enforcer who works up in Alaska until he pisses off the wrong hit-man. After a good pummeling he is whisked away to life on a horse ranch in upstate New York. Here he makes friends with the locals and gets wrapped up in solving the disappearance of a teenager. Because of this, he gets involved in the local crime scene and draws unwanted attention.

But I’m not totally convinced there are no supernatural elements to the story. Isaiah has some traits that seem more than human. He has super strength and fast healing. Laird has done a great job of not bringing too much attention to these things, and they only stand out to me because I expect them in Laird’s work.
Isaiah is an interesting character. He has a love for dogs, which manages to get him in even more trouble. In fact, one of the most intense scenes of the book involves Isaiah putting the smack down on some small-time crooks running dog fights. Isaiah is also a very educated man; he is well versed in the classics. I loved all the comparisons between him and classical heroes.

Crime fiction is not usually “my thing”. I’ve tried reading Elmore Leonard after many recommendations, but I’ve only been able to get through his short stories. I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book. So much so, that I’ve already requested the next one at the library and will gladly drop everything I currently have bookmarks in to devour Black Mountain once it arrives.

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