Review: “Manifest Recall,” Alan Baxter

Rating: 5 out of 5

Alan Baxter’s paranormal thriller Manifest Recall (Eli Carver Supernatural Thriller) starts out in a moving car, with Eli Carver behind the wheel. He has no idea where he is, how he got there, or why he has Carly in the passenger seat with her hands tied. Gradually pieces come back to him. He was a hit man for mobster Vernon Sykes. Carly is Vernon’s stepdaughter. Every time he comes closer to remembering anything recent, he blanks out again. Carly seems surprisingly okay with being kidnapped, but she’s decidedly not okay with Eli blanking out and stuffing her in the trunk. As Carly tries to help Eli remember what happened without going over a mental cliff, Eli racks up a body count. He’s also haunted by the ghosts of five of the men he’s killed, all of whom seem ecstatic at the idea that he might get himself offed.

The ghosts are fantastic. There’s a great thread running through everything where you’re wondering whether the ghosts are real or a figment of his imagination. Sometimes it seems like maybe they know things he doesn’t, but it could be explained as him having subconsciously noticed or remembered something. By the end you may know which it is! The ghosts also fight amongst themselves, which is pretty hilarious.

Eli is an excellent character. He’s obviously not an admirable person, as early on we see him kill a cop who did nothing more than knock on his motel door. And, well, that whole hit-man thing. But we also see his first kill, which he did not want to do, but had little choice about if he wanted to live. When he isn’t blanking out he’s treating Carly pretty well. And as we find out more and more about him, he becomes all the more human. Never an admirable man, but one we can sympathize with. Carly, too, is intriguing. Eli’s first memory of her once he returns to full consciousness is that she’s the mob boss’s daughter, but it’s more complicated than that. She’s scared but tough, and does an admirable job of figuring out how to keep Eli from drifting back into his blackouts.

Eli goes after some bad people–biker gangs, white supremacists–but not for any altruistic reason. He needs information. He knows the only way to ever be free is to kill Vernon Sykes, and there are reasons why he needs to hurry in order to accomplish that. There’s plenty of shooting and mayhem.

I really enjoyed this book. I think this makes three I’ve read of Baxter’s, and each one is both very different from and yet equally enjoyable as the last.

Content note for discussion of rape and for lots of shooting and killing.

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