March 24, 2017
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis
You never forget your first house. Unlike apartment living or hiding in your parents’ basement, this is a big deal. Many people equate becoming “grown-ups” with owning their first house. Now when stuff breaks, or the lawn needs to be mowed, it’s all you. Nobody is going to take care of all the necessities anymore. It is also a vastly exciting time and Walt Blackmore has just purchased his first fixer-upper. He is super jazzed! Look at the classic lines, the gable front, the peeling paint, and rotting wood. Some folks really dig making their place personal by putting in the sweat equity. That is Walt to a T. He is happy to do the work and is excited for his new “grown-up” life. Soon Walt is going to be teaching ninth grade English and if the stars fall right, proposing to his girlfriend Amanda. Life is looking really good!
The only problem is that there’s this odd stain on the ceiling and no matter how Walt and Amanda try to clean it up, it keeps on coming back. Not only that, but the damn thing is growing and leaking blood all over everything. Talk about your first time home owner blues! Since they’re failing in their attack from below, Walt decides to try and clean things from the other side by getting up into the rickety attic. He sure does find some gross stuff, including some dead rats and other critters. Problem solved, right? Wrong! The dripping stain just gets bigger and smellier. It also seems to be…Alive?
Yes indeed folks, the stain comes to life and develops into much more. Not only that, it gains control of Walt’s already eccentric brain and chases off the girlfriend. Soon he’s a slave to the developing thing and has to keep coming up with ways to feed it. Problem is, the creature doesn’t want a bowl of mac n’ cheese or an egg sandwich. The only things it wants are live flesh and fresh blood. Since you can’t run down to the supermarket for that, Walt has to get creative and that lands him in a whole mess of trouble. He’s stuck living a duplicitous life of the genteel school teacher in public and a crazed murderer at home. That can be tough on a person and soon things start to slip.
Walt is so involved with his new companion that the rest of the world seems unimportant. He does his best to keep the charade going even though it is obvious that he’s on very thin ice. There are many times in the book that the reader will think that Walt is going to be caught for sure. But somehow the chips fall his way and he squeaks by. The result is strong suspense that kept me turning pages until two in the morning! Good stuff! I also found myself rooting for Walt and the monster instead of humanity a lot and then flipping back to the human side. Am I just a twisted freak or is it that Kurtz is such a good story teller? I’d like to think the latter.
Bleed is a great book and I highly encourage you to buy a copy soon, because once the secret gets out, it might be hard to find! This my first experience with the Trepidatio imprint and I am now a fan. Ed Kurtz really knows how to tell a twisted tale! He keeps messing with the reader all through the book. While your brain thinks it knows how things are going to turn out, the story goes running in the opposite direction. It works great, keeping you constantly off balance until the surprising conclusion of the book. Nicely done! Feels incredibly natural and possible. You’ve got to love small towns! They’re so…Tasty.