Storm Demon by Gregory Lamberson

stormdemonStorm Demon, the 5th instalment in the Helman canon, takes Jake further into the fire than ever before, and sees him face down a bigger and badder villain than he’s seen in… well… 4 books. Trust me when I say this: If you weren’t completely invested in this series by now, you’re doomed to become a super-fan from here on out.

And thus we commence my annual drool fest for another volume of the Jake Helman series: 

Jake returns to New York City, anxious to start a new live with NYPD homicide detective Maria Vasquez. But the supernatural forces making his life hell have no intention of leaving him alone. 

When Psychic healer Laurel Doniger disappears, Jake lays his life on the line to bring her back alive. With time running out, he must uncover the truth behind Laurel’s secret past. He’s drawn into a conflict with a being who has existed since the dawn of mankind. She’ll destroy New York City to take revenge on those who interfere with her plans. This beautiful creature is known by many names – Lilith, succubus, witch – but Jake and his allies will come to know her as the Storm Demon. And the world will never be the same. 

– from the back cover

The Helman files have been rife with huge baddies and epic plots depicting insane situations for our favorite ex-cop/detective to endure. First we had ‘the Cypher’, then we had Lamberson’s take on zombies with his drug induced zonbies, and then came Avademe and, in the next book, the Demon Kalfu… and now this. I won’t go into any detailed explanations because I’m just going to assume you’ve been following the series, but if you haven’t, you should at least know that the aforementioned bad guys describe a drastic escalation in craziness for our main character from book to book.

Jake has been through hell more than I could possibly imagine, and this installment is no different than the rest… save for the massive amount of action involved. Truth be told, Lamberson has always made his best efforts to keep the pace going at an even keel, but this particular story sees virtually no lull long enough to even refresh a coffee or, god forbid, sleep. 

Where the previous outing, Tortured Souls, took me a little while to get through, Storm Demon wouldn’t allow for that. Tortured Souls was a fantastic book, and I gave it a very positive review, but, in retrospect, I almost feel that setting the story in the midst of a political revolution, and moreover, in a foreign land, gave it a bit too much room to breathe, if you follow me. It’s understandable that the probability of pulling off such a dynamic and detailed plot would have been next to impossible on American soil (or North American soil, for that matter), but the claustrophobic, familiar setting of this novel made the suspension of disbelief that much easier. 

Given the fact that I, and many other readers, have actually been to most of the locations described in the book, it’s far easier to see a gigantic storm ravaging Manhattan, or a giant stone angel slamming through the garden of a beautiful Eastchester mansion (because that stuff happens for real … right?) as opposed to an army of political dissidents attempting to stage a coup in a war torn country that, despite all of my OCD-like 

And that’s where Storm Demon steps up and slams the ball out of the park. Every setting, character, and situation is accessible. There’s no room for tangents or speculation. It’s all go-go-go. Which is, as you’ve no doubt figured out by now, how me likes me stories.

Tight, fast-paced tales make for some of the best horror fiction there is, and especially when you’re talking about a series. Now, there’s something to be said for explaining a  back story and/or catching a reader up on a series through info-dumps, and if I’m going to be honest, it’s something I absolutely hate in genre fiction, but sometimes it’s necessary. Lamberson is undoubtedly guilty of this in the Helman series, and it’s understandable. What I really dug about this entry is the fact that it’s pulled off so effortlessly – it’s almost negligible, yet it’s definitely in there. An author always wants their reader to know what’s going on when and where in their novels, but sometimes it’s to the detriment of pacing or at the behest of an overzealous copy-editor. Not this time, folks. Storm Demon is one of the best examples of a balls-to-the-wall action/horror and how it’s done right. 

Not only is Lamberson on the top of his game with Storm Demon, but he delivers one of the best “YOU’RE FUCKING KIDDING ME!?” moments of recent memory, with a twist even I wasn’t expecting. And that’s saying a lot, given the years I’ve invested in this series. 

The author’s depiction of Lillith is also one of most brutal and sexy depictions set to paper that I have ever read. I would love to be in the company of this woman, but am also aware that I wouldn’t last a moment. Hell, nobody would, really. She’s a storm. A force to be reckoned with, in the truest sense of the phrase. 

Lamberson outdoes himself with every installment of the Helman files, leaving this reader exhausted, yet begging for more with the end of every book. Storm Demon is no exception. 

Like I’ve said a few times before – I can’t wait for the next one. 

C.

not only

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The Last Invasion by Brandon Zuern

When Ed Kurtz gave birth to Sam Truman, a character I knew would instantly survive pretty much anything he threw at the poor bastard, I had no idea that he would be delivering a series featuring several different authors abusing the same person for a seemingly unlimited run. Now that I know, I’m doubly stoked about the prospect of watching this man bleed the same blood some of my other favourite PI’s bleed. Granted, if you’re a fan of the Hard Case Crime and other noirish/mystery/procedural pieces in this genre, you’ve probably not seen anything like this before. And holy sweet Jesus on a flapjack does Zuern offer up a weirdo of a concept with his entry – The Last Invasion.

From Amazon.com

Eager to put the bizarre, otherworldly events of Catch My Killer! behind him and resume working regular cases again, Sam Truman agrees to investigate a missing persons case when a pair of distraught parents seek his help to find their daughter. The city is being terrorized by a serial killer the cops can’t catch, and Sam fears the worst as his fearless instincts lead him not down the killer’s path, but to uncover a nascent alien invasion that threatens the existence of all life on earth! Sam’s shot at rescuing the girl becomes a race against time before the invasion starts, and all while the unknown killer’s body count rises all over the city. But the unlicensed P.I. is determined to return the girl to her parents and make damn sure that the aliens’ hostile intentions are THE LAST INVASION!

I don’t have any problem letting the reader know that there are killer giraffes in this novella. Why? Because there aren’t, and I’m lying. But there are aliens! LOADS of em! One even pounds people in a robotic search of root beer and any other nummy liquid sweetness it can gather. Mind you, if I was in Truman’s shoes and wanted a root-beer, I’d go around kicking ass and taking names as well. But in this case, well… a ginger ale just might have to do. I’m not going up against anything like this big bastard any time soon.

Zuern’s style of writing is succinct in some places, yet offers almost too much information in others. Case in point, the fact that Truman digs himself a good old root-beer while he’s thinking – that’s good info and connects the reader to the character. Explaining that the soda jerk has a wife and two kids, assuming it’s used to validate the character’s happy demeanor… not really useful. Hell, I know a lot of people who aren’t happy, and they have wives, husbands, kids, dogs, cats, fleshlights, those awesome automatic card shuffling machines, and all that junk. It doesn’t really matter too much to the story, and it really doesn’t validate things. But what it does do, and I have to give the author this one, is it kind of slams home just how damned happy this guy is. And seriously, I want to see this character on the big screen. He seems like one of those guys you’d either love to be around, or want to dragon-punch after five minutes of exposure to his inane gaieties.

Either way, fun will be had.

Now as for this incarnation of Truman, I found him to be a little bit more of an asshole than Kurtz’s version. He’s more likely to sock a dude for looking at him funny, seems a little more shady, a little less apt to follow the right lead, and a whole helluva lot more goofy. The one-liners in here are virtually priceless, and the whole attitude of the book has less of a black and white/sepia tone effect, and more of a Warner Brothers/Who Framed Roger Rabbit-styled color scheme. Which brings me to my next topic of discussion…

ALIENS! But not your normal “we came to poke you in the bum with these lightsaber dealies” kind of grey things. No no no. Zuern has something else in store for the reader. Let’s just say that these pretty little thangs ain’t so pretty, and they definitely won’t be hugging and squeezing and calling you “George” any time soon. Nope. They’re just gonna smell the place up before they shoot the place up. Which just basically makes for some awesome end-scene catastrophes.

Zuern is on top of his game when the action is hot, there’s no doubt about that. His wit, coupled with his deliberately shortandtothegoddamnedpoint scenes of comic book violence make this a wickedly fast read. While there are obviously some ups and downs in the delivery of this tale, it’s more than made up for with the fun the reader experiences at the end.

In fact, the only downfall for me was one key plot point that just needed to be played with a bit more. Hopefully Kurtz and company will delivery on this delightfully Dexter-esque story similarity, and show the goods with a regular cameo (and a tied up storyline as well) from this mysterious serial killer.

If this is the way the Truman Series plans to roll, this reader is in for the long haul. But now, as is my bookshelf’s greatest displeasure, I’m wanting a paperback… so we’re going to have band together and pressure Abattoir into producing something a little more physical in the near future.

C.

All Hallow’s Read (Day 19) A scary book for…

…someone who likes a series.

Jake Helman is one badass character, packing more attitude and swagger than you could possibly imagine. The Jake Helman Files, a supernatural/noir series by Gregory Lamberson, is 100% Dreadfully Approved, and worth every second. Start with Personal Demons, move on to Desperate Souls, and then throw down with Cosmic Forces. You won’t be disappointed. Tortured Spirits, the 4th book in the series will be available in October 2012.

All Hallow’s Read is a book-giving tradition thought up by author Neil Gaiman. We’ll be making book suggestions all month long in case you need ideas!

Cosmic Forces by Greg Lamberson

I love Jake Helman. I love him, I love Greg Lamberson for bringing him to me, I love Medallion for bringing it to print, and I love… well, everything about this series. And I’m so happy to report to you that this is the best book in the Jake Helman Files to date. Cosmic Forces is full of action, suspense, gore, hilarious one-liners, and a hero that puts all others to shame.

And a really friggin’ big monster.

Oh yeah, this one is huge.

The whole damned book is huge. From concept to characters, action and plot, this whole thing feels like holding a million pounds of creativity packed into a small, book shaped package.

When the wife of New York City mayor Myron Madigan hires private investigator Jake Helman to spy on her husband, the trail leads him to Karlin Reichard. The wealthy industrialist and kingmaker leads to a cabal that has secretly manipulated world affairs for generation. In order to bring these powerful men down, Jake must join them. But at what cost to his own soul?

Battling human assassins and supernatural creatures, Jake pursues a quest to uncover the mystery behind the Order of Avademe and a monster willing to destroy heaven and hell to rule the earth.

In what is definitely the biggest, most ambitious plot in the Jake Helman series, Lamberson dishes out heaping loads of pain, torture, and terrifying situations to (in my opinion) the best damned hero of modern fiction. Not only that, but Lamberson expands upon the world that Helman inhabits, revisiting some of his earlier cases, and setting up more questions about some of the secondary characters that we just knew had something more to them. The year-long wait for this follow-up to Desperate Souls and Personal Demons was well worth every single literary withdrawal symptom I experienced. Unfortunately for me (and you folks, too), we’ll be waiting until 2012 for the aptly named follow-up – Tortured Spirits.

Getting back on track – this time around we find Jake fighting all manner of creepy-crawly nasties in search of information pertaining to his current case. Lamberson has always excelled at creating incredible characters, as Jake Helman’s undeniably strong and larger than life existence will tell, and the folks in Cosmic Forces are no different. From the get-go, Lamberson throws nothing but true, realistic dialogue, and emotive characters into the mix, really fleshing out the story for all it’s worth. From Madigan’s wife to his dwarf-like assistant, Lamberson surrounds Jake and the entire plot with a spectacular cast that showcases his practiced ability to give the reader what they want, and the author’s own incredible understanding of character creation.

Again, Lamberson has given the reader not just a story, but also the literary equivalent of the cinematic experience. It’s not hard to imagine this series as a film franchise, but given the extremely detailed plots, it would hard to believe that Hollywood or any other film maker would be able to do it justice. Not to mention the sheer amount of time it would take to create some of the monsters that Lamberson has dreamed up this time.

Now, earlier I said that this is the most ambitious of all of the Jake Helman books. I said that with good reason. Lamberson has upped the ante in this one considerably. Not only is Jake going head to head with a giant monster, the likes of which I won’t explain for the sake of the spectacularly grand reveal in the novel, but he’s also going up against several very powerful men and the powers of good and evil themselves. The team-ups in this novel are incredible as well, making Cosmic Forces switch from a dark, noir-ish tale to a full on comic book style replete with some of the best action we’ve seen so far. The ending just begs for a huge and triumphant orchestral score to punctuate every Biff!, Bam!, and Boom! that Jake and his fellow renegades deliver to their enemies. I was compelled to read this scene twice, just because it was so damned fun.

There are some incredibly detailed and creative biblical references in this book, as well. All of the mythos draws from some sort of religious background, with under (and over) tones of occult themes thrown in for good measure. Lamberson travels a great distance to create his own mythology in this story, crafting an almost entirely believable back story that could very well serve as a cult belief in and of itself. Like his previous efforts, and his novel The Frenzy Way, Cosmic Forces is incredibly well researched, and will satisfy almost every answer that could pop into your head regarding the information contained herein. The only pieces left untouched hint at a story that would be very welcomed as a follow-up. If I’m right, Tortured Spirits could very well be even better than its predecessor.

This book really has everything I, as a reader, could ever want i a horror/crime crossover story. Apart from Mike Oliveri’s The Pack: Winter Kill, I have yet to find a series that grabs my attention as much as this one does. Lamberson knows exactly what he’s doing, and creates a different, more emotionally charged, and thematically huge story with every subsequent release.

You won’t be disappointed with these books, folks. This series is 100% Dreadfully Approved.

Check out Medallion Books here, and Greg Lamberson’s website here. For a limited time, you can grab a free e-copy of Personal Demons – the 1st book in the Jake Helman Series – at Amazon, and other online retailers.

C.