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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Shards
by Tom Piccirilli
ISBN 1-885173-23-7
Write Way
Hardback, 214 pp./$20.95

If I had edited Shards for author Piccirilli, I would have told him to rewrite the first three chapters and make them six. The story moves so quickly the reader is swept along at a dizzying pace. "Piccirilli should take better care of his readers," I found myself thinking, "They might expect him to keep this up throughout the book."

The thing is. . .he does. Shards is no roller coaster. It's a hijacked bullet train speeding through the dark. Once you start reading be prepared to buckle your seat belt and stay with the ride.

Nathaniel Follows, Jr., the protagonist, is the not-so-average crime novelist who evokes the best of the noir tradition. If Shards did nothing more than follow him and his confrontation with the dark lives surrounding the suicide of the very young, very rich, very attractive Susan Hartford, it would be a good read. But it also deals with the pain the past can inflict on the present and the tainting of innocence with another's evil. On yet another level it is a novel of self-knowledge. The action-packed plot twists and turns and amazes right up to its riveting end. This is a lot of book for 214 pages even at more than 10 cents a page.

Shards is so good it leaves you wanting more: a deeper exploration of Follows' familial monsters, an amplified sociological look at the elite of Southampton--heck, you wind up wanting to read the novels the fictional protagonist supposedly writes about his alter-ego hard-boiled dick.

Only a genre writer could give so much in one reading. A mainstreamer could get four 400-pagers out of Shards. Ya gotta love these genre guys.

Shards, as well as the collection Pentacle, are good arguments for the much-maligned label "dark fiction." A murder mystery with pulp elements may be the linchpin, but the book is also psychological suspense, a homicidal maniac thriller, pretty horrific, and offers enough splat and sex for more extreme tastes. Just as Follows manages to satisfy the women he beds, Shards will satisfy a variety of readers across a spectrum of marketing niches.

-- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.