Short Take: “Hammers on Bone,” Cassandra Khaw

Pros: Surreal, dark
Rating: 5 out of 5

Cassandra Khaw’s short book Hammers on Bone (Persons Non Grata Book 1) follows John Persons, a private investigator who isn’t quite human. Despite living in the 21st century, he prefers the vernacular of noir films. A ten-year-old named Abel arrives with a piggy-bank to hire him to kill the boy’s step-father. When Persons investigates, he finds that not only is the man an abusive, horrid person, but he’s infested with something much worse, and he’s spreading his infection throughout his part of London. Persons is reluctant to get too deeply involved, but the ghosts in his mind insist on lending a hand. And truth be told, there’s a dormant part of Persons that would love the chance to break free and wreak some havoc of its own.

Hammers on Bone has such a fantastic Lovecraftian feel to it. Persons and his prey aren’t the only powers in London, and he might be about to get in over his head on this ‘case’. He can’t just drag Abel, his brother, and his mother away from the monster, and the first few times he runs into it he isn’t in a position to destroy the monster either. Especially without knowing more about what he’s up against. There’s some wonderful tension around the idea of whether he’ll intervene in time, and what will happen when he does. The characters are fantastic; even Abel has a real personality to him. The atmosphere is very detailed and vivid. I’d love to read some sequels!

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