"15 Miles" Book Review
Written by Rob Scott
2010, 368 pages, Fiction
Released on August 10th, 2010
A book that gets its proverbial hooks in you in the first ten pages is usually good. Rob Scott's 15 Miles only needed five to get the job done and didn't disappoint me in the many pages that followed. When it comes to horror, there are many ways of doing it, and Scott sits comfortably outside of the box with a unique noir style that sprinkles in horror touches here and there while safely keeping both feet in the realm of the real.
15 Miles tells the story of Samuel "Sailor" Doyle, a detective who asked for a transfer to Homicide after working for years in the Virginia State Police Vice Division. We meet Sailor drinking in a bar with a few friends and soon learn that altered states of consciousness are a recurring problem of his. A typical anti-hero with a great sense of humor and a strange thirst to do right even when things are going horribly wrong, Sailor is a man with a drinking problem, an alienated wife and loving kids at home, a prescription drug dependency, a guilty feeling over his sister's death that hangs over him like a black cloud and a penchant for self-loathing.
Sailor works a few cases in Homicide as the second in command. They're all easy ones. However, when he's assigned his first solo case, a double homicide on a rural farm some 15 miles outside Richmond, things change drastically. The victims are an old couple, Carl and Claire Bruckner. She is in a mummified state and has a saw stuck in her body where someone tried to cut her in half while he is stuck half-in, half-out of a hope chest overflowing with cat litter and there are strips of flesh missing from his back. Around them and all across the farm, famished cats threaten to eat anyone who crosses their path and there are many dead animals including cats, sheep, goats, cows and a horse. To boot, the couple's mentally handicapped daughter is missing. Sailor pops some pills and starts in on the investigation only to learn that Carl was a Marine captain who lost his leg in Vietnam due to the fear and incompetence of his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lake, otherwise known as the Republican Party presidential candidate. While the case gets more complicated with each new thing Sailor and his team of investigators learn, it's what they fail to notice immediately that kicks the story into a new level: all of the people that entered the house are now carrying the plague, and so is the missing daughter.
While Scott's writing is tight, fast-paced and carries the story very well throughout the 368 pages of the book, it's his use of horror elements that truly put this noir in the must-read category. Although the plague is horrific enough, Scott uses Sailor's prescription drug dependence to create an eerie aura that envelops the story. A growling, rotten dog that comes back from the dead, a cell phone that gives creepy messages, a screaming banshee and strangers telling Sailor his sister forgives him are some of the elements that are interspersed in the narrative and give the story an ominous feeling.
I don't think there's a better mix of noir police procedural and creepy psychological horror out there. Definitely worth a read.