highbeam.com | 30 March 2008 | Lorne Jackson
IT’S true that you can’t tell a book by it’s cover. Actually, scrub that. Most of the time you can do just that. If the picture on the dust jacket happens to show a gorgeous gal kitted out in suspenders, sprawled over a four-poster and brandishing a family-sized jar of peanut butter… Well, you don’t have to glance at the title to know you aren’t about to snuggle down with Little Women.Possession Of The Dead, by D.B. Shan, also has plenty of clues spattered across the front cover. It looks like the artist has haemorrhaged ink, as the page is packed with black and white scratch marks and squiggles. In the centre lurks the silhouette of a sinister-looking man. The image is eerily similar to the Sin City comic books, created by Frank Miller, then later used as the basis for the Robert Rodriguez movie of the same name. So no surprises that Procession Of The Dead is very Sin City. There’s plenty of comic book action, with nasty people doing nasty things in nasty dives.The main baddy is a character called The Cardinal, who has a vice-like control over The City. (That’s the name of the place. Not particularly original, but certainly accurate, since this ain’t no picturesque village.) Nothing happens on the streets of The City without The Cardinal knowing about it. He’s a tough cookie, all right. Imagine Fabio Capello with an added thirst for blood and illicit sex, and you’ll get the idea. Although a religious figure, he’s closer to damnation that heaven. And no one dares defy him.No one, that is, except Capac Raimi, a smart, arrogant, young tike, whose only ambition is to become a major player in the world of gangsters. After a good deal of hard work in the school of hard knocks, Capac finds himself confronting the Cardinal, the one man who can make or break him. Soon, dangerous choices have to be made.This novel - which promises to be the first in a series - is as subtle as playing chess with the Incredible Hulk. And that’s not a criticism. Shan clearly isn’t trying to stimulate the intellect. Instead, Procession Of The Dead is all about the adrenaline rush. In that it doesn’t fail.This is a ferocious ride, with plenty of spurting blood and screams of agony caused by grunting goons. It’s the kind of book you can imagine being turned into a straight-to-DVD movie or fastpaced computer game.
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