First-time author and Austinite Robert Jackson Bennett takes a solemn approach to genre fiction, with nary a light moment in his allegorical horror novel, Mr. Shivers . Set in the Depression-era Southwest, the saga follows Marcus Connelly, who leaves his wife and Memphis home to ride the rails west in pursuit of a scar-faced “shiver-man” who has murdered his young daughter, Molly. In a Hooverville in Missouri, three fellow travelers seeking “ Mr. Shivers ” for similar reasons—Reverend Pike, Jakob Hammond, and Mr. Roosevelt—muster around Connelly and head with him toward New Mexico to exact revenge. Their quarry’s preternatural qualities will soon give them pause: How does he appear, kill, and disappear in the blink of an eye? Do dust storms follow wherever he goes? Is he the devil or death itself? Too late it becomes clear that the wanderers’ own double-edged morals may turn them into the very kind of fiend they hate most. As Connelly’s wife tells him before he leaves, “The man who goes out there and the man who comes back won’t be the same.” Mr. Shivers travels a joyless terrain—Cormac McCarthy’s The Road comes to mind—but Bennett’s obsession with the nature of pure evil holds a promise of interesting things to come. Orbit, $19.99
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