Paperback, 186 pages
Published March 1st, 2016 by HighLine Editions (first published by Gibbs Smith in May, 1994)
I have to admit to starting this one with some reluctance. I mean, drug smuggling shit is usually not very high on my list of fiction (or non-fiction, in case you were wondering). However, the publisher’s enthusiasm swayed me into giving it a go and I don’t regret that decision at all.
~Publisher’s Synopsis~(the GR’s one doesn’t do the book a lot of justice)
“Henry Joseph begins his series of neo-noir thrillers with Bloodwork: The New Rugged Cross, set in the raw beauty of Northern Georgia. It follows the story of Jack Lee, who is ready to start rebuilding his life after an acquittal from drug trafficking charges. But after his best friend is murdered, Jack quickly turns from reformed outlaw to a hunter in search of vengeance. Driven back into a world he vowed to leave behind, he finds himself in the face of true evil as he goes head to head with a madman.”
During the first chapter, I constantly thought “Sweet Jesus, please don’t let the rest of the book be like this.” The sentences were poorly structured and it was very clear the guy we were reading about was named Lucius… I’m also not a big fan of excessive stuttering in books, not even when someone’s about to die; it just feels like crappy acting to me. That being said, this is still all the first chapter. As soon as I was one page into chapter two, I already noticed a big difference in the writing style: things became a lot better.
A couple of chapters later, I had a chronically dropped jaw and couldn’t help but picturing scenes from this TV series in my head:
(if you haven’t seen the first season of True Detective yet…go watch it, it’s brilliant)
I’m not saying it was the creepiest shit I’ve ever read, but it was still pretty disturbing. When a middle-aged psychiatrist was banging a 16-year-old nympho girl, I even put the book down for a couple of hours…
Let’s take a look at the storyline and characters. Jack Lee is the 42-year-old protagonist of the story. I took an instant liking to him because he seems like a very friendly, spiritual and caring guy. He actually reminded me a lot of Mike Ironwood, a character from a book I reviewed a couple of months ago: awesome combat skills with a gentle character. Just don’t cross any of their paths or you’ll be in deep shit!
After living like a hermit in a cabin up the mountain for three years, spending his days meditating, reading, gardening, and walking (doesn’t sound too bad huh?), Jack feels like it’s time to come back down and start his life again. On the second day down in the ‘real world, he already meets the love of his life, who is named the love of his life on that same day as well. The fact that I can’t, for the life of me, remember what her real name is unless I look it up again, says enough I think. In fact, the whole love interest could’ve easily been left out. It really doesn’t add anything to the storyline, including an awkward sentence about a bruised pudenda…
Soon after the irrelevant pudenda scene(I just love saying pudenda), Jack finds out one of his best friends is murdered. All hell breaks loose and he’s soon set out on a path for revenge that can only end with an eye for an eye kind of solution.
Jack meets some interesting characters on his hunt for the perp, yet, because we’re talking about a sadistic serial killer here, not many of them last very long. It’s like a thriller version of Game of Thrones, really.
To keep things exciting, I won’t tell you which of the characters survive all the way throughout the book. There are two news reporters, a former FBI-guy, a crazy psychiatrist, a schizophrenic suffering from PTSD, the leader of a disturbing religious cult, a giant Mr.Muscle guy named Lucy, who likes drug dealing and gardening while wearing a flower dress, an old guy who lives in the woods together with a giant pack of dogs and a pet squirrel, and more. Just take your pick! I can only say it came as a bit of a surprise to me.
Even though there are quite a few flamboyant characters in here, most of them felt pretty flat. We hardly really get to know any of them, sadly. And this is what makes the book less awesome than it could’ve been.
The writing (apart from that hideous first chapter) was great and the story was fast-paced and disturbing at times. The action lacked a little…action? Especially when it comes to the end in which it all comes together. The scene I had been waiting for during the entire book was simply faded out, as in movie wise faded out. Has anyone of you seen the season finale (season 6) of The Walking Dead recently? If you have, that‘s kind of what it felt like. Except for the level of involvement I feel for the characters; in this book, I just hoped Jack would be okay and the rest couldn’t really interest me all too much.
That being said, I still enjoyed it. It’s not the typical action plot-twist cliffhanger kind of thriller, but instead, more written in a prose-like way, so that’s definitely interesting. I’m giving it 3 brownies because I liked it and would be interested to read more from this author. Sadly (for me), he has retired 15 years ago, and it was already a hassle for me to find out where to buy Bloodwork, let alone his other books. I contacted the publisher about this, so hopefully that will bring some clarification when it comes to the sales department.
Thanks to Ivy Liu from Astor+Blue Editions for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Links to the book:
~About the Author~
Henry Joseph, a native of Georgia and a willing victim of wanderlust, lives on 19 acres high on the tailbone of the Appalachians. Henry Joseph retired from worldly affairs in 2001. His literary estate is represented by Peter Rubie, CEO of Fine Print Literary Management.