Monday, January 6, 2014

'The Devil Brigade Part One' (Book Review)

Freak shows are always good for a scary story.

I recently had the chance to read the new novella The Devil Brigade Part One by Toni Odell. It tells the tale of Ben "The Bubonic Boy" and his freakish companions that have somehow become part of the "Devil Brigade" sideshow helmed by the sinister ringmaster Tom. He is a drunk, and no one really understands how he manages to operate the show or how any of the performers came to be part of this nomadic dysfunctional family. The only thing that's for sure is the show is more than it appears to be.

The Devil Brigade is a fast and well crafted read. At roughly 150 pages I tore through it in a few hours start to finish. Odell is certainly talented and has a strong grasp of the language. She's adept at creating vivid descriptions without being overly verbose. Neither the events of the story or the characters feel forced, especially considering the short length. Even minor characters like Werewolf and Commodore are fleshed out more than the average supporting staff in a short form work. The story is quite dark and there are some great, gory moments with Odell describing gruesome acts in excruciating detail.

If I have any complaints about The Devil Brigade it's that a few of the overall concepts and ideas have been seen before, but the author manages to put her own spin on them and make them feel fresh, so it can be overlooked in the larger context. I could easily see it being converted into a screenplay since it's easy to get into and accessible.

I would recommend The Devil Brigade to anyone looking for a quick read who enjoys sideshow stories like Something Wicked This Way Comes and the like. It's a well-crafted tale and provides a strong opener for what will hopefully be a great horror series.

Grade: B

Reviewed on Kindle via Amazon. 148 pages.

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