"One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning" Book Review
Written by Shane D. Keene
Published by St. Martin's Press
Written by David Moody
2017, 336 pages, Fiction
Released on December 5, 2017
I'm no stranger to the works of author David Moody, having devoured the first three books of the beloved-to-me "Hater" series and enthusiastically dove into and through the "Autumn" pentalogy, though with somewhat waning passion on the back half. It started out as an original and refreshing entry in what I view as a largely stagnant horror trope that was much in need of fresh voices and fresh ideas but it quickly devolved into the typical fare of the age. But that experience did nothing to temper my passionate interest in this fourth installment in the aforementioned sequence of brutality that first brought this exceptionally talented author to my attention and made him a go-to favorite.
Starting out in typical Moody fashion, One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning wastes no time with the violence and bloody mayhem, throwing us directly into a horrific scene on a boat that sets the mood and the pace for the entire story, one that takes place for the most part on the remote English Island of Skek. David Moody has a knack for imagining the experiences and methods of death in a way that's only exceeded by the great Jack Ketchum, imparting not only the visuals and the emotional terrors of personal destruction but also the physical sensations involved on the part of the victim. When speaking of his own work, Ketchum said it was important to his style of writing to face the horrors without looking away and Moody seems to have taken this lesson to heart and embraced it wholly, somehow managing to make you feel the plunge of a blade or the rip of tearing teeth upon your throat. That ability is what drew me to his work in the first place and what keeps me coming back time and again, willingly bathing in the visceral, unapologetic splatter that is Moody's stock in trade.
Unlike the original trilogy, which follows the trials and tribulations of a single character as the focal protagonist, this newest book is both a fresh new look at the Haters tale through the eyes of several different characters. It's here we find what I think is the only slight failing of the book. There are so many different cast members being introduced pretty much at once that it's difficult to keep track of who is who at first—it becomes somewhat easier when the author begins to kill his darlings—and by that same virtue, they are also pretty thin, so it's difficult at first to care for them. But in the end, their actions and reactions are believable and reasonable and it turns out not to be that big of a show-stopper. If you come for strictly correct literary exposition, it might get in your way, but if you come for a balls-to-the-wall blast of a good time, you will fucking love this thing.
And there are several things to love about Moody's story here. There's the aforementioned pacing and his typical mastery of dialogue and of the English language in general. But there's also a new and brilliant stroke on the author's part. As the bodies start to pile up and the hapless and hopelessly stranded people on the island struggle to determine who the killer or killers in their midst are, the book evolves into a mystery of almost Agatha Christie-like proportions that I can't help but think of as armchair apocalypse-style. Because it's not only difficult in this world to determine who's doing the murdering, but which of the players are haters and which are otherwise. It's one of the most fascinating aspects of this nightmare fantasy. David Moody has developed a trope in which everyone has the potential to be an antagonist to everybody else and it remains ambiguous and almost impossible to determine all the way to and through the very end. There's a big question mark throughout and there's a gigantic one at the ending that will have you wondering what the hell just happened and what could possibly be coming in the next two books in this exciting new venture into the Haters universe.
If you haven't previously read the work of David Moody and you were looking for a point to step into the dance, the original Haters trilogy would be a good place to cut in, but if you're one of those sort of folks who always prefers the new hot, One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning would be a good place to start as well, though there are things unexplained that I can't tell in retrospect if they would get in the way of a new reader's enjoyment of the work. It goes back to the beginning of the "outbreak", but it doesn't go into great detail about what exactly it is, but my recollection is that it doesn't really do so in the original works either. That's one of the aspects of its overall intrigue and, in the case of this latest entry, the volume spanning mysterious feel to it that causes me to think that if John Carpenter, George Romero, and Agatha Christie were writing a book or making a film together, it would look very much like this ridiculously fun murder-fest born in the mind of one of our more imaginative creators.