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Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon

1/01/2010. Contributed by RJ Barker

Buy Mister Slaughter in the USA - or Buy Mister Slaughter in the UK

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pub: Subterranean Press. 445 page deluxe edition hardback. Price: $24.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-276-4.

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Matthew Corbett is in the employ of the Herrald Agency in colonial era New York. Matthew and Greathouse, his superior in both rank and physical prowess, are given the job of escorting a murderer, the titular Mister Slaughter, from an asylum to a ship bound for England where he can be tried. While escorting the killer, he makes them an offer that seems too good to refuse. The two men take him up on this only to be dragged into Slaughter's dark, violent and dangerous world.

Tyranthus Slaughter. Now there's a name and if there was any justice it should be up there with Hannibal Lecter in the 'Great Fictional Serial Killers' list. In Slaughter, Robert McCammon has given us a great villain. Even the name is perfect. Tyranthus not only brings to mind images of the terrible lizard but sounds like a name of the Colonial Era. It slips right into the world like straight razor into flesh. He is a great monster. If he was all this book had I would still recommend it. But it's not, it has more. So much more.

The world seems utterly real. I never once questioned the veracity of it. New York feels dirty and dangerous and there's almost a sense of relief when the book moves out into the countryside. Of course this is false, dead towns, murder and Indians await in the wilds. And lastly, Tyranthus Slaughter.

The hero, Matthew Corbett, is a flawed man, somewhat hesitant and unsure of himself and this book is his tale, although the shadow of Slaughter always looms large, it is Matthew who shines the light on it. The way his very period sense of guilt over betraying his honour wars with greed could make him seem unpleasant but McCammon's subtle hand never makes you dislike his character. Corbett is real and very human, his motives never seem questionable. When Corbett berates himself for letting Greathouse make a deal with Slaughter you understand why and sympathise with him, all the time knowing he's making a mistake.

So what happens when you make a deal with the devil? Things go wrong. We all know that. McCammon strings it out, lets us meet people and like them and all the time Slaughter is being malleable and friendly and you're just waiting for it to go wrong. When it does, it's sudden and shocking. Brilliantly handled by the author.

As Corbett hunts down the killer we witness the carnage left by Slaughter and, bit by bit, small details from the start of the book weave themselves into a complex and incredibly satisfying plot. I'm trying very hard to keep any spoilers out of this review. 'Mister Slaughter' is compulsive reading from start to finish.

The only niggle I had with the book was the interior drawings by the same artist who handled the cover which is great. The illustrations within look rushed and, if anything, detract. But that's a tiny thing.

Put simply, if it doesn't contain a copy of 'Mister Slaughter' your book collection will be sadly lacking.

RJ Barker

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This book has 45 votes in the sci-fi charts

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