Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Reckoning

The ReckoningThe Reckoning by Carsten Stroud

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 instead of 4. Stroud caps off his Niceville series (for now). The being Nothing is still possessing Rainey Teague but is spreading like a virus to the other citizens of Niceville. Det. Nick Kavanaugh is first among a cast of characters trying to keep Niceville from coming apart in the ensuing violence. Charlie Danzinger (still dead from the previous book) travels to Glynis Ruelle’s plantation to aid in her spiritual Harvest & combat Abel Teague. And, just to add to the chaos, the local crime syndicate is still experiencing plenty of infighting.

The above description only scratches the surface of the myriad of plots in the series’ final book & I will give plenty of warning here: if you didn’t read the first two books in the series, don’t even try to get into things here. While Stroud will give descriptive summaries of the preceding events, they will not convey the scope of the shenanigans involved. And the weight of trying to resolve all those plot strands does show.

The author has not lost any of his witty, kinetic style or keen observation, but he is under a lot of pressure to keep things manageable. Having a vengeful demiurge body-hopping around often confuses the setting of the story & pulls in too many extra perspectives. The stakes of Rainey’s possession & “cursed” bloodline are also lowered as a result of the bloodthirstiness. And the final showdown & resolution do not land as well as they could. Our heroes face off with an insatiable pain elemental whose story is trimmed for time & just sort of goes away when confronted with a force cobbled together from a lot of hunches & secondhand stories. Not quite the ending I had hoped for.

With that said, Reckoning kept me reading & still entangled me with its genre fusion of Southern gothic/supernatural thriller/police procedural. (Also, seriously Mr. Stroud, if you’re going to keep creating tasty pop culture details like NeetDaScreet & their covers of Nine Inch Nails songs, you’re gonna break my heart when I research them & find out they’re not real.) While Niceville seems over for now, it’s had to imagine that our author won’t return there in the future for a few more stories.

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