Pros: Enjoyable slasher fiction
Cons: A bit meandering and weird
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Mike Baron’s slasher tale Helmet Head is a solidly decent entry into the genre. Deputy Pete Fagan made a mistake that got his former partner killed, so the only place he could find a job was in the middle of nowhere. When Pete goes after a biker who’s running drugs, he encounters a helmeted man on a motorcycle who’s beheading people with a sword. There’s a freak storm wreaking havoc, taking out power, knocking trees across roads, and even spawning tornadoes, so Pete can’t go for help–he’s stuck in a bar with a bunch of outlaw bikers called the Road Dogs (and one attractive young woman named Macy) while they’re stalked by the seemingly unstoppable “Helmet Head”.
This story is a bit like reading a text version of a comic book or graphic novel, and to decent effect. The main difference is the extended side-jaunts into various characters’ formative years. Occasionally those come at odd times and interfere a little bit, but most of them are fine.
The genre classification gets a little strange. Nazi experiments come into play in what originally seems like a standard, run-of-the-mill backwoods serial killer. The line between magic and tech gets a little fuzzy. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s a kind of story you enjoy reading.
There are a couple of “Men Writing Women” moments–Macy’s a little fixated on “daddy issues”, and for some reason male authors seem to have a fixation on women being able to magically intuit the gender of their fetuses, which is a bizarre thing to keep seeing in books.
My favorite thing about this book is probably Pete Fagan as a character. Often the law enforcement hero in these books is pure as gold, or his only vice is alcoholism and/or smoking. Instead he has a really interesting background, and is something of a more ambivalent character–at least in his history.
As a fairly standard backwoods serial killer story crossed with Nazi occultism, this is a good book. There’s plenty of action and bloody deaths.
Content note for: drugs, sexual assault and rape, animal death, slurs.