The Reckoning by Carsten Stroud

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The Reckoning by Carsten Stroud is book three in the Niceville series and what appears to be the finale in the series. The well plotted and potent mixture of the supernatural and detective noir delivers on all cylinders. In Niceville and its inhabitants, both living and dead, both past and present, Stroud tells a tell of Gothic Noir in a bloody and vengeful fashion.

“…There was a body in the front door, a round little guy, down on his back, his arms splayed out. His pants were down around his ankles. His legs were rubbery blue and covered in fine brown hairs. He had a black handle sticking out of his right eye socket. It took a second for Nick to get that it was the sort of handle you’d find on a round file or an ice pick. It was jammed up to the hilt in the victim’s eye. There wasn’t a lot of blood, so Nick figured it had gone all the way back to the guy’s cortex and just shut him off like a switch. A hit like that wasn’t an easy thing to do. It required arm strength and commitment. A whole lot of commitment…”

Niceville is a beautiful little Southern town nestled in the shadow of the nearby mountain called Tallulah’s Wall. But there is an ancient evil in these parts, so well felt that even the original Native American tribes have avoided the area. An emptiness fills the air and a void fills the depth less sink atop of Tallulah’s Wall. It is the Nothing and in it time bends and both man and animal is manipulated to her will.

Detective Nick Kavanaugh and his wife, family lawyer Kate, have long since felt the push and pull of the Nothing. They have long come to the realization that the reality in Niceville is not normal. With the retrieval of the young boy Rainey Teague, Nick and Kate thought they had battled the Nothing to a standstill and for now it had vanished. That is until the buzzing had begun and perfectly normal people began to commit horrendous and unspeakable acts of violence.

“…No. It’s not like that at all. It’s not about God and Satan or Heaven and Hell. That’s all too far away. This is local. It’s about something real bad that lives right around here, in the Belfairs, in Gracie and Sallytown and Niceville…”

There is a battle to be fought. In past and present. Wrongs to be undone and set true once again.

“…Among the dead there are those who still have to be killed…”

“…Charlie Danzinger,’ said the guy, and he pulled the trigger. Munoz, who had no fucking idea who Charlie Danzinger was, never heard the shot, just a flash of blue light as the round went through his forehead, tumbled a bit, plowing a trench into the middle of his brain, chugged straight on through and blew out the back of his skull and it took all of Desi Munoz with it and he went straight down to his knees, tottered-Coker gave him a little shove with his wing tip-and fell onto his back with a meaty thud.
Didn’t bounce, not even once.
Coker looked down at the guy, put a safety shot through the bridge of his nose and another into his chest. Looked down and noticed he had some blood splatter on one of his Allen Edmonds wing tips.
Got a towel and wiped that off, checked himself in the mirror, straightened his collar and cuffs, and took the fire stairs eight flights down, his long blue trench coat flying out behind him like the wings of a messenger angel…”

The blood and gore and bodies begin to pile up and Nick knows that for once and for all he has to put an end to the Nothing. With his friends and family he faces the emptiness that has held power in Niceville since before the beginning of time, and to prevail, what is Nick willing to sacrifice in return.

The Niceville trilogy is an incredible blend of ghost story, demon possession, haunted house and serial murderer, alongside one of the most atmospheric Noir mysteries to be found. Add in a healthy dash of mob hits and gangland takeovers with a killer of intense skills who just wants the world at large to leave him and his girl alone. But there’s that loud ass party going on that he just has to complain to the cops about and that just gets another round of blood and bullets flying.

But at its center is Nick and Kate and the young boy who is becoming a man, Rainey. The young boy whose parentage is a dark mystery but is at the heart of the evil in Niceville.

When I first read Niceville several years ago I became an instant fan of Carsten Stroud. His skill and prose turns the pages for you. You follow along one of the more complicated plot and sub plot lines you may ever pick up with the ease of vacationing in a beautiful city you thought you know, but know nothing about. Stroud is your concierge. Your guide pointing out just where the bodies are buried , but also where they crawled from just to get there. A powerful, genre bending tale of the supernatural and a blood and gore crime novel that would satisfy the most ardent Mickey Spillane reader.

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