I don’t know what prompted Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey to write a book together, but I am so glad they did. I’m also very excited that there will be another book from them. The Dead Take the A Train is the first in the Carrion City duology. I saw an ad for the book a couple of days ago, and John Langan blurbed the book as “compulsively readable.” I can’t think of a better description. It was hard to put down, and even when I did, I was thinking about it. It is a visceral read with A LOT of viscera.
We meet Julie Crews at a bachelorette party at a speakeasy themed bar that’s gotten very bloody. The bride to be is possessed by a demon and in Julie’s efforts to remove him, the bride’s body has lost some parts. Things go downhill from there and Julie isn’t paid what she’s owed. She doesn’t have enough money to cover the next month’s rent, so she isn’t in a position to say no when Tyler, her Wall Street dirtbag ex, calls with a job offer. What we know, that Julie does not, is that Tyler is trying to farm out a job that may get Julie killed. Upping the stakes, Julie’s old friend Sarah shows up, fleeing her abusive ex. They are, of course, in love with each other, but they keep insisting they are just “best friends.”
“It’s like they’re trying to be stupid,” said St. Joan in an awful stage whisper.
“I know,” said Dead Air before his face softened. “But we probably should let them be stupid in peace.”
There is a lot of plot and I would gladly recite it to you like a three year old tells you all about Thomas the Tank Engine, but I won’t. I will tell you that The Dead Take the A Train is funny, and kind of mean. It has a big heart, and that heart is actually an eldricht god who will burrow into your brain and wear you like a meat suit. This cosmic horror is smiling too widely with too many teeth and whispering “be careful what you wish for” so softly you don’t understand what it said until it’s too late. Khaw and Kadrey don’t shy away from using big words and the prose is otherworldly. I loved it.
CW: intimate partner violence off page, torture mostly off page, eternal torment, possession, murder, self harm, piles of entrails, gun violence, threats of violence, violence.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Tor Nightfire and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.