Review: Horse of a Different Color by John L. Lansdale

Fresh on the heels of the bloody novel Zombie Gold from the pen of John L. Lansdale, a book that tried real hard to blur the distinction between historical fiction and pulp horror (and reviewed here last year), a new book from the author titled Horse of a Different Color from Book Voice Publishing again challenges our perception of genres.

Reminiscent of the horrors that “ripped” through the Whitechapel district of London in the late 19th century, somebody is mutilating young women. Here we are over a century later, but this time it’s in a suburb of Dallas. As the clues of a serial killer begin to mount, veteran detective Thomas Mecana must put his personal problems aside, rely on years of experience and stretch his sleuthing skills to their limits if he hopes to match this monster move for move in this deadly game of chess. But having a fresh recruit with zero experience investigating murders thrown into his lap may be the final straw that takes him to his brink – or the odd pairing could be a blessing in disguise.

Though the story revolves around a profound mystery with frightening historical implications, the author’s innate ability to spin a complex tale painted with vivid characters and intense suspense provides readers with a well-paced book that they may find difficult to set down.

Horse of a Different Color shows how monsters and demons are not just scary elements designed to make readers gasp in fear. This is a dark and twisted representation of what can be. Sometimes, sinister stories of the macabre can also show readers the real horrors that live among us, how history can play a role in current events, and expose a world of ancestral biology that some of us may be too naive to recognize. Can evil lurk in our DNA?

Fans of horror stories that involve hideous monsters or supernatural beasts may be disappointed by the lack of an “unnatural” enemy here. In fact, on the outside, this book does not seem to fit the typical mold of the represented SF/F/H audience. Heck, even followers who enjoyed John L. Lansdale’s previous flesh-eating antagonists may not get the same kind of shock and awe they’re accustomed to. But hard-core fans who take pleasure in some intense mysteries with a glint of historical relevance mixed in will definitely find Horse of a Different Color a worthwhile suspenseful ride. Yes, these are probably the same fans who enjoyed the author’s preceding mystery novel Slow Bullet, also from the Book Voice Publishing stable.

Sometimes, the biggest difference between mystery and horror is the authenticity of the monster. And when the monster is real, the fear is intensified. By mixing in some historical relevance, John L. Lansdale has provided this to readers in Horse of a Different Color – and a whole lot more.

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