In One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning, David Moody returns to the world of his Hater trilogy with a new fast-paced and wonderfully dark story about humanity’s fight for survival in the face of the impending apocalypse.
Crime fiction and apocalyptic horror have more in common than fans of the individual genres might realize. That's because apocalyptic horror is about how survivors at the end of the world suddenly cope in a reality where there are no laws, and crime fiction is about how corruption and society can transform law-abiding citizens into hardened criminals and violent malefactors into enforcers of ultimate justice. So both types of tales are about dangerous circumstances, how we survive them, and how they fundamentally change our natures.
David Moody combines crime fiction and apocalyptics horror in One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning—the first book in a new trilogy (The Final War) set in his Hater series of novels. This novel is set on Skek, a remote island off the coast of the U.K, which is a pretty spooky and interesting place:
The two of them start walking back. The breeze down here is bracing: it whips off the sea then blows back off the headland, seeming to come at them from all directions at once. Apart from the wooden jetty jutting out into the waves way over to their left and the overgrown remains of a concrete World War II gun turret perched on the top of the rise above them, nothing else man-made is visible from here.
Skek is home to Hazelton Adventure Experiences, a company that guides regular folk through outdoor survival scenarios. Hazelton is currently hosting a small group of office workers who are there as a team-building experience. This dynamic leads to an interesting and diverse cast of characters composed of both people who seem prepared for dangerous situations that arise outside of civilization and people who don’t. For fear of spoilers, I can’t get much more detailed about individual characters, but those I found most interesting include: Ronan, the head of the office workers; his staff members Matt and Paul; and Hazelton staff members Natalie, Nils, and Rajesh.
When Moody picks up with his main cast, the office workers are on their last day at Hazelton when tragedy strikes; one of their co-workers plummets off a cliff to her death. Then, the boat coming to pick up the office workers and drop off Hazelton's newest clients disappears. What follows is a tense, chilling tale where everyone—the reader included—is trying to figure out what’s going on in the world outside of Skek.
We're given a number of gruesome and cryptic clues, including the violent and erratic behavior of the office worker who fell, the discovery of the missing ship that’s become a tomb for its mutilated and murdered passengers, and this recounting by a Hazelton staff member of a violent incident he witnessed on the mainland several days earlier:
“This guy in an Astra just swerved out of the traffic into the middle lane, then accelerated and hit one of the police full on from behind. Poor fucker didn’t stand a chance. The impact threw him right across the road. He ended up in the middle of the traffic coming the other way. But the bloke just kept on driving. Crazy fucker started chasing down the other folks out on the road like it was some kind of game. Death Race 2000, remember that film? It was just mad. Surreal.”
As the clues to the apocalypse that's unfolding on the mainland start to compound, the inhabitants of Skek suddenly find themselves dealing with a murder mystery of their own. The homicidal Hater phenomenon has reached the island, and uncovering what exactly is going on leads to exciting twists and turns, causing some characters to make surprising but completely organic choices to survive.
The fight to survive is a bloody and visceral one too. When conflict and murder occurs, Moody often goes into gruesome detail—but the effect is never gratuitous.
They find a body in the lounge. The middle-aged man is wearing only a vest, boxer shorts, and a brutal-looking gunshot wound to the face. His jaw has been blown away, leaving his mouth an impossibly wide-gaping maw. What’s left of his throat is a vicious-looking, dried-up hole.
Passages like this really bring Moody's world to life for me. It makes me feel some of the horrors his cast are experiencing as they fight to survive and, in some cases, hold onto what they were before the world went to hell.
Like the best crime fiction, the violence in One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning has emotional power. You feel it as a reader. You get to see all the physical and emotional scars the cast inflict and the ones they come to bear. When you add that to the book's great cast, its exciting twists and turns, and the chilling mystery at hand, you've got one hell of a novel.
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