Original date of publication: 2010
My edition: 2010 (Subterranean Press)
Why I decided to read: read the first two books in the series back in 2007
How I acquired my copy: review copy from the publisher, February 2010
Mister Slaughter is the first book in a series that began with Speaks the Nightbird and continued with The Queen of Bedlam. Mister Slaughter is sort of a continuation of The Queen of Bedlam (I certainly recommend reading that book first, since this book references some of the events and people of the first. Speaks the Nightbird is more of a stand-alone novel). Here, Matthew Corbett (a “problem solver” for the Herrald Agency in New York) and his associate, Hudson Greathouse, are charged with the task of transporting a murderer named Tyranthus Slaughter from an insane asylum to New York, where he will be sent back to England to await trial—and, inevitably, the hangman’s noose. But this being a Matthew Corbett novel, things don’t go quite as planned, and Matthew and Greathouse find themselves hunting Slaughter through the woods of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Their search eventually brings them to the attention of Professor Fell, who was a major part of The Queen of Bedlam.
This is a very strong addition to the series, all the more so because Matthew’s character develops significantly in this novel. He suffers from the sins of vanity, greed, and pride (which often go hand in hand), and part of his development in this book involves his learning to be more humble and willing to admit that he’s made mistakes—and he makes one or two here. He’s young, too, which leaves a lot of room for development over the course of more books. Hudson Greathouse takes a backseat (since he gets injured about halfway through), but the book is complimented by the introduction of a few new associates, including a Seneca tracker who’s considered mad by his tribe mates; and a teenage boy intent on revenge. Slaughter is a delightful (if a mass murderer can be called that) villain, who manages to make people trust him, even while the reader thinks, “no! Don’t trust him!”
The plot too is very good, with the right amount of tension. Robert McCammon is a little less skilled at the historical parts (retirement communities in 1702?), but I thought the book was well-researched nonetheless. In addition, at times, the characters seemed a bit too modern (at one point, one of the characters exclaims, “I’ll blow the shit out of him!”). Robert McCammon is famous for his earlier horror novels, and there’s certainly a fair amount of that kind of gruesomeness here (I’m not going to say anything, but remember what happened to Frank Bennett in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café… totally different book, I know…). Despite the books minor flaws, I really enjoyed this book. You can definitely see the inspiration of the great heroes of the 1950s and ‘60s (James Bond, in particular; there’s a ship named the Golden Eye, plus an inventor whose last name begins with Q). And indeed, there’s a lot of action and adventure in this novel. I can’t wait to read what’s next for Matthew Corbett and his associates.