Review: The Dead Road by Seth Patrick

The Dead Road by Seth Patrick is the third and final installment in the genre-bending Reviver Trilogy, which delivers chilling twists as a forensic detective revives the dead to exhume a world-changing conspiracy.

When a story starts at a secluded, run-down mansion—and one of the first people you meet is tied to a chair in the basement—you know things are going to be creepy. In The Dead Road, Seth Patrick starts there and immediately catapults things into the world of Lovecraftian horror.

“Perhaps it’s time for you to meet your new god,” said Ferris.

Kendrick started to walk towards the door.

“Don’t,” warned Drayton. “You don’t want to see it. Just kill us both, and end it.”

Kendrick ignored the old man. He wasn’t ready to give up, not yet.

As he neared the door, the smell he’d not quite identified got stronger. He placed it now: the stench of rotting meat. He looked back at Drayton and imagined the dark bloated creature that pulsated on his shoulder, forcing its way into his mind. Kendrick wouldn’t let that happen.

He could hear something now—something heavy, a slow shuffling step coming nearer. He reached out for the door, ready to throw everything he had at the slim chance of survival.

But whatever happened, he’d keep one bullet for himself.

It’s been 20 months since the madness of Winnerden Flats, where an experiment with “revival”—a technique that allows gifted men and women to temporarily bring the souls of the dead back to their bodies—opened a door into another realm and let a world-destroying evil possess the body of billionaire Michael Andreas. Since destroying Andreas and escaping that evil, our heroes—computer specialist Never Geary, investigative journalist Annabel Harker, revivalist Jonah Miller, and government spooks Kendrick and Sly—have carried on in their own ways.

While Never and Annabel have tried to return to their normal lives investigating suspicious deaths and exposing scandals, Jonah hides away in Annabel’s remote survivalist bunker of a house. After surviving an attempted assassination, he’s faked his death and spends most of his days agonizing over slain friend Tess’s ominous last words: “The Beast is coming. Be ready.”

Kendrick had made it all happen pretty damn quickly. Almost before Jonah knew it, he was dead and buried, and free to focus on answering the most important question of his life.

What had Tess meant by ‘be ready’?

How the hell could anyone be ready to face off with the devil?

Meanwhile, Kendrick and Sly are still chasing leads about the parasitic “shadows” connected to the Beast. Never hears a revived murder victim mention an approaching silence. An unknown group has been making a concerted effort to disrupt transatlantic Internet cables. Jonah receives another cryptic message from Tess: Pandora. And strange solar flares promise to cut off power and communication lines across the country, if not the world, just as a new vessel is created for the formless evil.

This is not a recipe for surviving demonic, soul-eating hellbeasts that thrive in darkness.

Patrick does a phenomenal job of balancing the surreal with the familiar, crafting a thriller with serious bite. The moments of gruesome body horror are handled deftly, drawn out just enough to hit us viscerally without being gratuitous or overwhelming.

There Tess was again, but standing and looking right at him.

Pandora,” she said. She held out her hand to him, and he approached. She put her arms around him and began to squeeze until it was painful. He couldn’t breathe, and still she squeezed harder.

She let him go, a look of malice on her face. Then she opened her mouth, wide, wider; she looked to the sky and placed her hands on her top and bottom teeth, then pulled until the jaw cracked wide. She kept pulling, her flesh tearing down her neck. Inside, gore-streaked, was Annabel. She smiled at him and opened her mouth just as Tess had done. Jonah screamed as she began to pull.

He woke with the sound of cracking bone still ringing in his head.

The Dead Road is what you get when you take criminal investigators and mix in Lovecraft, conspiracy theories, secret societies, demonic possession, a technological apocalypse, and a cast of extremely interesting, likable characters. Any of these threads alone would make for a slap-bang story. In Patrick’s hands, woven together, the result is a real humdinger. Horror and mystery fans alike are bound to find something to love here.

Read an excerpt from The Dead Road!

And for all of its encroaching darkness, death, and destruction, The Dead Road manages to be both beautiful and philosophic at times. This isn’t a wholly nihilistic tale of the inevitability of madness and ruin, as so many stories dealing with interdimensional evils tend to be.

Instead, the message is a reassuring one: there’s always hope. And that’s always worth fighting for.

“You know the funny gateway to the church? It’s a lych gate. Do you know what that is?”

He shook his head.

“It’s a side entrance to the church grounds, where bodies are brought for funerals. Every funeral used to bring the body up along this road, and carry it in through that gate. Somebody gave the road a nickname, because sooner or later everybody comes up this way. Eventually, we all travel along the Dead Road…

“I’ve known people all my life who just had no hope within them, none at all. They were already walking along the Dead Road, because nothing seemed to matter.” She shook her head. “We all die, Rob. But for some people that’s all they see ahead of them…

“A life lived without hope…” she said, wistful. “Some people start traveling on the Dead Road a long time before they’re in a coffin, Rob. Don’t you ever do that.” She raised an eyebrow. “Promise me.”

He’d made her that promise, and he’d always tried to stick to it. Even now.

 

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Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

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