In Review: Firewalk

This is a fantastic book, just without an ending.

Firewalk by Chris Roberson

Published by Night Shade Books, published October 18, 2016. Jacketed hardcover of 350 pages at $24.99. 

Note: I was lucky enough to discover a signed first edition of this book, which is limited to the first hardcover printing.

The cover: A red square’s shape is repeated outwards several times until it meets with the red lines of a similar expanding cube. Between the red lines is a raging flame. The top of the book features a raving quote from Richard Kadrey. Slightly below this states “From The Cocreator of iZombie”. Next is the book’s title, with the author’s name in black at the bottom. I saw this book featured at my local Barnes and Noble and knew I was going to purchase it because of the author, who has co-written several enjoyable Dark Horse Comics books as well as some enjoyable Shadow comics for Dynamite Comics. The cover exudes heat with the red lines and orange flame. Designed by Claudia Noble, this is certainly an eye catching image. Overall grade: A 

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Izzie Lefevre was the newest investigator for the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit when she first came to Recondito, a coastal city that’s been shrouded in mystery and legend for centuries. Local law enforcement had requested the Bureau’s assistance in hunting a sword-wielding serial killer who’d left a dozen mutilated bodies in his wake. Patrick Tevake was a local homicide detective assigned to the taskforce, and together he and Izzie maanged to track down and stop the killer before he claimed another victim. Five years later, Izzie and Patrick remain haunted by what the killer said before he fell in a hail of gunfire. Izzie’s ancestors were “mambos,” voodoo priestesses who claimed to communicate with the dead and protect the faithful from evil spirits. Patrick’s Polynesian great uncle told stories of Recondito’s supernatural menaces that lurk in flame and shadow. The killer’s last words have brought up a past both Izzie and Patrick thought they’d long since left behind, and neither has been able to shake the feeling that their case was never completely solved. So when Patrick, now working with the vice squad to investigate a dangerous new street drug, discovers a connection between the street drug and the serial killer’s victims, he realizes that their instincts were right: the threat is far from over. Reunited again, he and Izzie will discover that Recondito is a city of dark secrets, and their own pasts may be the key to unlocking them.” I was already sold on this book because of the author — I’d read anything he’s written — but I was pleased to see that this sounds like an X-Files case. I’m a huge fan of that show and a huge fan of this writer, so I’m in. Overall grade: A

The characters: Isabel “Izzie” Lefevre is an FBI agent who’s good at her job, though still feeling the effects of almost being the victim of a serial killer five years ago. She thinks before acting, and that’s the correct skill to have in this novel. There is the hint of a possible romance with another character, but it’s not with her former partner. Patrick Tevake has become a major foodie since Izzie and he worked together. He’s always thinking of his next meal as the pair go off to investigate the next clue. He’s a good contrast to Izzie, as he’s more likely to act first and he provides the exposition to bring Izzie and the reader up to speed with Recondito and its maladies. I initially assumed the pair to be knock-offs of Dana Scully and Fox Mulder, but they are not those characters. Patrick provides the knowledge of where to go next in their investigation, while Izzie is there to see if what’s occurring is similar to the serial killer from five years previous. Daphne Richardson is a special agent, but a junior in both age and experience. She doesn’t seem like an important character, occasionally popping into the proceedings, yet becomes a major component of the novel by its end. Dr. Joyce Nguyen is Recondito’s only medical examiner, as she’s fond of saying. She’s a fun character, who is described by Patrick as eating on the job while performing an autopsy. Nguyen brings some welcome humor to the book as well as several “uh-oh” moments when she discovers things that shouldn’t exist. The junkies and dealers of Ink are the book’s antagonists, but they’re technically still unnamed by the book’s end. There is a chief antagonist suggested, but by the book’s close he’s not been seen, spoken to, or confirmed. The character that really leaves an impression on the reader is the active character in Chapters 11 and 12. This individual is the most visual and memorable of the novel. This character also foreshadows terrible things to come. The characters in this novel are smart, fun, and ones that any reader can root for. Overall grade: A

The settings: Recondito seems like the perfect hideaway town. It’s famous for its many immigrants and quirky shops. However, in the five years Izzie has been there the tech industry has come in, buying up houses, older buildings, knocking them down and building new ones, and raising rents. There’s still enough of the old part of town to be familiar by Izzie, but things have changed. As the book progresses the underbelly of this town in shown, and literally goes underground at times. The opening setting, from the serial killer’s final moments, is worthy of Hitchcock and delightfully returns. There’s also a million different places to eat, thanks to Patrick’s knowledge, and I found myself hungry every time he and Izzie went somewhere. Little towns with major secrets are always fun and Recondito definitely fits the bill. Overall grade: A

The action: What starts as a procedural mystery blossoms into supernatural territory that may or may not be confirmed until the climax. Every building and person sparks a memory in Izzie and apprehension in the reader. Trouble could be at any setting or come from any person. The opening is good enough for the finale of a film, but introduces unrest from the get go that doesn’t let go of the reader until the end. When the clues become eerie and the action of Chapters 11 and 12 occurs, I couldn’t read this book quickly enough. I read this book in one sitting because I could not put it down. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: This upset me to no end. I did not know going into this book that it was only the first installment. I ripped through this book, completely engrossed, wondering how the heroes could survive as I got closer and closer to the ending. The final five words of the story are “To be continued in FIREWALKERS“. I thought I would be reading a complete story. This left me upset. There. Is. No. Ending. Had I known going in that the story needed another volume to continue, I might have felt differently. Without it, I was extremely frustrated, angry, upset, irate, and flat out mad. Overall grade: C

The final line: I have very mixed feelings for this book. I loved every page until the lack of an ending and the introduction of a sequel. I cannot fault Roberson for his storytelling ability; he had me hooked from the first page. I was enthralled with this book…then came the final page. Will I buy the next book? Without question. However, I will check the last page to see if the story ends or with the promotion of another sequel. That will make me feel better before I get to the ending. This is a fantastic book, just without an ending. Overall grade: B

To purchase a print copy of this book go to https://www.amazon.com/Firewalk-Chris-Roberson/dp/1597808792/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490484028&sr

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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