First a full disclosure notice- Mr. Shumate is a fellow movie reviewer who let me read a pre-distribution copy of his novel in exchange for reviewing the book. There were no strings attached; in his own words, “…Agree to post a review — positive, negative or indifferent — on your blog or website.” As Nathan pulls no punches in his reviews, I will in kind be brutally honest with him here.
The story begins with a prologue of a demon-like summoning ceremony. We then skip to the story proper by being introduced to our protagonist, a Miss Rennie Avalon, private investigator and mother of a young daughter. Mr.Ernest Vielstich is her first appointment of the day. He has recently had an old German book, circa 1713, stolen from him. He suspects a man who had recently contacted him about purchasing the book is responsible for the theft. Since Mr. Viesltich (Mr. V from hereon out) has no documentation proving his providence over the book, and the book has no known value, the police will not look into the matter. Mr. V claims that the book is rare, perhaps singular, and has a very personal meaning to him. Rennie is somewhat suspicious, but takes the case.
Rennie then stakes out the gentleman suspected of the thievery, and succeeds in locating the book, but is chased off before she can recover the item. After this failed recovery attempt, Mr. V gives Rennie the full story about the book. It concerns old knowledge, spells, and rituals that concern demons. Not so good for humanity, methinks.
The story then proceeds as Rennie, Mr. V, and Rennie’s occasional colleague Sammy Moapa, a rather massive Samoan electrical engineer with a checkered past, try to track down the book. Also along for the ride is the man who originally contacted Mr. V about the book, a Neo-Nazi named Philip Castler (who really is just a complete tool).
The writing is crisp and reads quickly. At a short 87 pages, Mr. Shumate could have filled out some of the scenes with some more detail. For example, the prologue could have been further expounded upon to give some additional atmosphere. As a first time fiction author, Mr. Shumate developed the story well, if a bit sparsely. I believe that if Nathan can flesh out his scenes a bit more, he will be able to introduce a stronger emotional tie with the reader.
Another question I had was how quickly Rennie accepted the supernatural aspect of the book. There is a reference to “past odd occurrences,” but they are not developed. Also, why does Beth, Rennie’s daughter, have nightly nightmares? Perhaps as a setup for a future book with a backstory? I would look forward to the further development of these characters.
An interesting aspect of the story concerns Castler. In one scene he tries to defend his racism, and at the same time reveals how small-minded he is in his beliefs. I do not know author Mr. Shumate’s personal beliefs or experiences with racism, but in one scene he delivered a powerful insight into why some people can be twisted into such beliefs.
The overall story has a nice blend of supernatural aspects and detective story. As a fan of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, I really enjoyed how Mr. Shumate wrapped his writing into the “I really cannot describe it” feel that Lovecraft employed.
I found this to be a rather enjoyable read. I wish it had lasted longer. The development of Rennie was nicely done, and made me care that she would get back to her daughter at the end of the night. Hopefully, Mr. V will also make more appearances in future works, he has the quiet, controlled manner of Aloysius Pendergast from the Preston and Child novels. I recommend this as a quick, fun read with a Lovecraftian detective feel. To learn more or to order a copy visit www.nathanshumate.com