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A Blood of Killers, by Gerard Houarner
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Published: 2012
Review Posted: 12/17/2014
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated

A Blood of Killers, by Gerard Houarner

Book Review by Ray Wallace

Have you read this book?

A herd of elephants.

A pride of lions.

A murder of crows.


Judging by the fact that Gerard Houarner decided to title his collection of short stories in this manner, one would assume that the tales within its pages would feature a preponderance of characters with a willingness to take human life. And, as it turns out, one would not be wrong in this assumption. Killers of varying description and motivation abound between the covers of this hefty tome containing more than two dozen of the author's gruesome offerings.

This collection, in a way, is a book of two halves. Anyone familiar with Mr. Houarner's work will undoubtedly know the name Max the Assassin, a character that has inhabited the pages of several novels including THE BEAST THAT WAS MAX, ROAD TO HELL, and ROAD FROM HELL. About half of the stories in A BLOOD OF KILLERS give us further insights into the world and inner workings of the mind of this particular killer and the demonic "beast" that fuels his murderous urges.

"Like Smoke Rising from the Burning Ghats" serves as something close to an origin story, showing us Max as a young boy new to his particular powers, chased through the streets of Calcutta by trained assassins. In "The Soft Package," an adult Max finds himself in the middle of a war zone, sent there by the powerful individuals who employ him to kill a man and a woman, to protect their infant son. It's the sort of mission that proves the ease with which life can be taken and how difficult it can be to preserve it. In "The Shadow of His Killer" Max must assess the abilities of a fledgling assassin. "Dancing With the Skeletons at the Feast of the Dead," the collection's longest tale, takes place in the Mexican wild lands where Max must help a holy man attain his higher purpose. And, finally, in "The Man Who Wouldn't Die" Max is contracted to kill a man blessed or cursed with the gift of immortality.

The other, non-Max stories include the titular "A Blood of Killers" which introduces the reader along with the main character, Paul to a far-reaching network of psychopaths. "Let Me Tell You a Story" details the way in which a babysitter's dark influence follows a young boy into adulthood. In "Painted Faces," a man's visit to a dominatrix sets in motion a series of bizarre and disturbing events. A building superintendent resorts to extreme measures when he runs afoul of a local hitman in "Dead Man's Park." And when a boy witnesses a shooting in "Say No," he finds that he has the power to thwart death.

A BLOOD OF KILLERS certainly lives up to its title. One of the more impressive aspects of this book has to be the sheer diversity Mr. Houarner brings to its theme, to its often less than sympathetic characters, the depth and range of the brutality that scars its pages. Also, one cannot ignore the skill and nearly poetic moments with which the author handles such grisly entertainment. And, without doubt, it is entertaining. That is, if you like your literature dark and unflinching, if you're the type of reader ready and willing to immerse yourself in the more harrowing aspects of the human condition. A BLOOD OF KILLERS serves as an excellent introduction to Mr. Houarner's work and it should find its way onto the "must read" list of any fan of horror fiction.
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