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The Killing Moon by Chuck Hogan - Fiction
With a brilliantly plotted new crime novel set in small-town Massachusetts, Chuck Hogan, prizewinning author of Prince of Thieves, delivers a page-turning, knockout thriller that demonstrates why he is the unrivaled master of gritty suspense.
The crack of a handgun shatters the silence of a warm summer night...A notorious local felon and former child magician vanishes, seemingly without a trace...A corrupt police force applies a stranglehold to a failing town...An ailing old man hatches a last-ditch plan to save the police department he once headed, and the community he still loves...An outsider arrives, bearing a simple recipe for death that could destroy them all...
Buried deep in the rural backcountry of New England, the town of Black Falls isn't dying so much as quietly fading away.
No supermarket. No traffic lights. No ATM. No hope.
Donald Maddox, a man with no law enforcement background -- indeed, no background at all -- has returned to his hometown after fifteen years to find himself employed as an auxiliary patrolman on a local police force known to inspire more fear than trust in its citizenry.
When a brutal murder shatters the isolation of this forgotten place, triggering the arrival of state police homicide detectives and a town-wide manhunt, both the local cops and Maddox appear to have something to hide. As the tightly wound mystery that is Maddox's past begins to unravel, he becomes ensnared in a deadly conspiracy that ultimately threatens his life, as well as the lives of those nearest him.
From its opening pages until its haunting final image, The Killing Moon displays the author's trademark gift for soul-deep characterization, crisp pacing, and unflinching realism. This is Chuck Hogan's richest, most satisfying thriller yet.
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1 HELL ROAD
A crack, a spray of flame, and he dropped onto his back on the side of the dirt road.
Nothing made sense at first. Not the trees overhead, nor the dark sky. The gasping that would not fill his lungs.
He heard hissing and felt a great pressure easing in the center of his chest, a sensation like deflating, like shrinking back into boyhood.
His fight-or-flight response failed him, blunted by years of false alarms. In the end, his brain was unable to differentiate between legitimate trauma and the fire drill of another cheap high.
The forest was fleeing him on all sides. Light came up in his face that he did not realize was a flashlight; a bright, beaming presence he thought might be divine.
Ten minutes earlier, he had been so fully alive. Pushing his way through the snagging branches of the Borderlands State Forest, jogging at times, giddy as he followed the full and smiling moon through the treetops. Intensely alive, every part of him, as he had not felt in weeks or even months.
He was two full days beyond sleep, yet his thoughts remained hyperfocused and particular, his mind blazing pure blue flame (no flickers of orange tonight, no air in the line). The thrill of risk, of danger, was his spark and his fuel.
He knew these haunted woods so well because it was he who had once haunted them.
Running the Borderlands had been, back in high school, a weekend dare for popular seniors with new driver's licenses: speeding their parents' cars along the ungated fire road that sliced through the state forest like a nasty scar. A midnight rite of passage, marquee entertainment in a town full of nothing-to-do, this tiny rural map-smudge in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, a fading and forsaken hamlet named Black Falls.
He had longed to participate, to be included as a passenger among a carload of screaming teenagers tearing through the forest. Stopping short on the access road, cutting the headlights, soaking in total blackness for an extra thrill. The stuff of roller coasters and horror movies.
But he was a strange young boy who had grown still stranger in adolescence. An outcast. One whom the others would never, repeat, never invite.
And indeed, he was different. More than any of them knew.
That was how he got the idea.
He still had loads of makeup left over from Halloween. He knew a thing or two about theatricality, about costumes, about the importance of performance. The mask and the reveal.
Word of the black-haired ghoul on the fire road blazed through school that week. Darting out of the trees with screaming eyes and a gaping black smile. The thrill seekers who returned the following weekend were disappointed by a no-show, until the creature's notoriety exploded full force the weekend after that, with a dramatic reappearance said to have fouled the undergarments of a varsity running back.
The next week, no apparition, only the discovery of a blood-soaked shirt dripping from a low tree branch. Two more weeks passed, kids racing their fears with no payoff, until the demonic ghoul appeared yet again, this time hurling a severed human head (a hollowed-out cantaloupe larded with a mixture of Karo syrup and red food coloring) into a passing windshield, where it exploded with gore.
The legend of Hell Road had been born.
He camped there on weekend nights when the Thing in the Woods materialized, and even some nights when It didn't: watching the headlights shoot through the Borderlands, his classmates alive to the danger, begging for some appalling shock to jolt them out of their tedious small-town existence. But they were merely flirting with death, whereas he was downright smitten.
The Killing MoonBy: Chuck Hogan