Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book Review - Rotters

RottersRotters by Daniel Kraus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book about grave robbers - who knew?

I actually met Daniel Kraus last year and received an autographed copy of Rotters from him. Then, foolishly, I put the darn thing in my to-be-read pile, the pile that never gets any smaller. The wonder is I finally worked my way to it.

Thank Heavens I did.

First let me say this is horror, this is gore, this is suspense. If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip this book, or at least skip eating. This is a book a bout the dead, not the undead or the risen dead, no flesh-eating zombies or vampires, just Rotters, the graverobbers unflattering name for the living, who think they will lie peacefully and undisturbed in their coffins. (BTW, I'm leaving instructions for a cremation)

Since I met the author in person I know he at least appears normal. He just knows his way around dead people better than anyone outside a certified forensic anthropologist--no, he knows even more. And he shares that knowledge with readers through the eyes, ears nose and every other sense of sixteen-year-old Joey Crouch a straight A student from Chicago sent to live with his unknown father after his mother's death.

He is ignored and abandoned by the man and doesn't realize that's a good thing until he finds his father prying jewelry from a dead woman's hand. Just her hand, the bones came lose from the rest of her skeleton while his father was robbing her grave.

Joey finds his way into the world of graverobbers as an escape from the new school where he is bullied and harassed by students and teachers. His father considers it an honorable profession, even names his shovel, and reluctantly takes Joey on as an apprentice. I learned way more about decomposition and the difference between a corpse and a cadaver than I ever wanted to.

The author knows how to be cruel to his characters. Joey faces the kind of trial that left me wondering what kept him sane. There's no way to tell about them without being a spoiler, but they are dark. Maybe he doesn't stay sane, his revenge against some of his tormenters is psychotic at best. (Again, empty stomachs are recommended)

The story does drag on a little too long, that's why there are only four stars. Things get so complex there has to be a long, involved telling to straighten out some of the lose ends and subplots. But that is balanced by the in-depth characterization of this boy thrust into a new and definitely strange environment where he not only survives, he thrives. There isn't a conventional happy ending, not even an ordinary hopeful ending. That's fitting, because nothing else about the book is conventional or ordinary. But it is an interesting ending, I'm not sure I'll ever forget those final paragraphs. I certainly won't forget Joey.

Did I mention - no grave for me.

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