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Depravity by Emilie J. Howard

Depravity - Emilie J. Howard

Lehem, Iowa, 1979: it’s a small ranching community, tight knit, a little afraid of outsiders, and into rodeos and parades. Pretty soon they won’t know what hit them. This story is told in three parts, but it’s a tight story and one part flows right into the next.

Peter Carston is fresh out of high school and new to the Sheriff’s department. He’ll be receiving some tough on-the-job training with the mayhem that’s about to ensue. There’s a new stranger in town; he’s exceedingly polite and it’s obvious from the beginning that he knows something about the bloody messes that happen during the full moon. He’s the second son of the Warfield family and not very happy to claim the name. Unknown to Peter, his family history will make him a target.

So things come to a head with the second son and the story enters Part II. The eldest Warfield son arrives in town and tries his best to make amends for the mess that occurred in Part I. Still, Peter and the rest of the Sheriff’s office aren’t quick to trust. Their fears are soon validated as yet more bodies keep turning up. The Warfield brothers have a dark family history which comes to light as the city girds it’s collective loins for the show down. Part III continues the grudge match with an unexpected assailant.

On one had, the story has a Western genre feel to it – good guys with high morals protecting the common people. On the other hand, this is so a horror tale with it’s body count and twisted villains. It’s an interesting mashup and I wasn’t convinced that it would work. The beginning is pretty darn slow and the manner-minding young hero (Peter) was pretty boring. However, the bad guys are very interesting and it’s really them who steal the show and carry the story forward.

There’s an asylum and some twisted human experiments. Then the Warfield patriarch has some pretty warped ideas of family loyalty. Toss in some demented members from a mercenary band and you have yourself one big fuster cluck. This book definitely explores a few different faces of depravity.

There’s not many ladies in this story which might explain the steady decline of Lehem. Peter has a high school sweetheart that has to be protected and coddled all the way through. There’s only one female police office and she’s nameless, on and off the screen in a jiffy. Then there’s the lost love of one of the Warfield’s and her young son. She too is admired for her beauty and coddled throughout the book. Really, the only interesting female character is the loud, obnoxious sister of one of the unfortunate murdered souls.

I very much enjoyed Howard’s Cold Hollow and I can see echoes of that same genius in this book but it was not the same fully engrossing experience. I enjoyed the initial mystery and then the reasons behind the insane killings. I even reveled a little in taking out the last few bad guys. I will continue to explore this author’s works.

I received a copy of this book at no cost (via the narrator) in exchange for an honest review.

Narration: J. Scott Bennett did a good job with feel of the story – light Western twang for most of the characters. His cultured accents for the rich Warfield family were well done. His little kid voice was spot on.