Act of Love
by Joe R. Lansdale
Cover Artist: Timothy Truman
Review by Steve Sawicki
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596064171
Date: 28 February 2012 List Price $40.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Homicide Detective Marvin Hanson realizes early on that he's got a serial killer loose. And he suspects early on as well that the killer has some connection to the police department. As the bodies begin to mount up his suspicions begin to take unwanted turns. The murders are grisly--dismemberment, mutilation, abuse--and scattered about the city. But there is a pattern and Hanson begins to find it, and to get closer, and closer. Unfortunately, he ends up getting too close and that process leads only to despair, betrayal, and tragedy. In the end it is hard to tell who wins and who loses, for while the killer gets caught the destruction he leaves in his wake may never be repaired.
This is the first novel ever published by Joe Lansdale, who would go on to become renowned for splatter punk writing full of grisly detail and senseless destruction. It's also the first appearance of Detective Hanson, who would go on to become one of Lansdale's regular characters. The writing here is a bit raw, as one would expect, but also clearly showing the skill and plot savvy movement that Lansdale would become known for. The story telling is also very raw in a simple and direct way. This actually works for the story here as it, also, is raw and direct.
The later Lansdale is clearly visible here in the story structure and in the relentless pursuit of meaning behind behavior. It is also present in the unrelenting drive from beginning to end that is purely singular in focus.
Lansdale is not one known for tricks or twists but more for the laying raw of emotional truth and in presenting a world where pretty much no one wins. There is a gritty realism to his writing that comes through the prose and which he follows like a dog on the scent of free steak.
If you are a Lansdale fan but have never had the chance to read him early on then you are in for a treat. If you like horror, or, to be more exact, realism tinged with horror, then you are also in for a treat.
Definitely recommended and definitely pleased that Subterranean Press decided to put it back into print.