Mysterious Book Report No. 344 – Blood Standard

Mysterious Book Report Blood StandardBlood Standard by Laird Barron

Putnam/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 321 pages, ISBN 978-07352-1287-9

The MBR has always had a soft spot for the antihero type: those individuals who’re capable of most anything, but who also possess the same purity of heart as a knight errant on a quest.  They’re the kind of characters who struggle with the world, and themselves, in an idealistic representation of the human condition.  Simply put: we all have our own inner demons, and each of us decides every day whether to be good or bad.  The antiheros are, in the MBR’s opinion, the most dramatic, and therefore the most interesting of all literary characters.  This week brings us one of the absolute best baddies with a good streak the MBR has ever seen.  His name is Isaiah Coleridge.  He’s half-Maori and half-Irish, witty and well-read . . . and an enforcer for organized crime up in Alaska, who takes bad-assery to a whole new dimension in an alternate universe.

Blood Standard, by Laird Barron, begins in Anchorage, Alaska, where “Mr. Apollo,” the Boss of Bosses up there, sends his number one hitter to Nome—considered a Mafia penal colony, by the suits in the lower forty-eight—for a “couple a month working vacation to snoop around a little bit, see if things are copacetic up there, capice?”  Mr. Apollo’s heard rumors about some goings-on in the area that he wants proved, or disproved.  But Isaiah barely gets unpacked before running afoul of Vitale Knight, a made member of The Chicago Outfit, and therefore untouchable without permission from all the Dons.  Isaiah has dynamited a big money-making scheme of Knights, in order to save some wild critters from being slaughtered, and put the  Mafioso in the hospital with  serious injuries . . . for which Coleridge is beaten, tortured and within seconds of being killed . . . when a last minute phone call spares him.  After a short hospital stay, a still recuperating Isaiah Coleridge is hustled away in secrecy, to a farm just outside of Kingston, New York, high up in the Hudson River Valley, and within easy reach of the New York City Mob.  There, he tries to reinvent himself, and leave his past in the past, but just as in real life, it’s never that simple.  After a troubled young woman disappears from the farm, Isaiah’s shoved neck deep into the murky, dangerous, shark-infested waters of organized crime, where his survival is iffy at best in this explosive and finely-crafted novel.  Isaiah Coleridge, “I’m merely a man with less exacting scruples than most . . .” is a character all crime fiction readers should get to know.  He’s gonna be a monster in the genre!

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John Dwaine McKenna

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