Over the past couple of years, I’ve started to develop a taste for Weird West stories. It started with ‘The Curse Of Jacob Tracy’, a book that showed promise but didn’t quite get there. Then I read two books that hooked me on the genre, ‘An Easy Death’ and ‘The Devil’s Revolver’.
So, when I saw the pitch for a Audible Original novella called ‘Dead Acre’, I thought it would be fun to give it a go.
Here’s the publisher’s summary:
James Crowley met his mortal end in a hail of gunfire. Now, he finds himself in purgatory, serving the White Throne to avoid falling to hell. Not quite undead, though not alive either, the best he can hope for is to work off his servitude and fade away.
His not-so-sacred duty as a Hand of God? Use his new abilities to hunt down demonic beings that have infiltrated the mortal realm.
This time, the White Throne has sent him to the middle of nowhere: a Western town called Dead Acre with a saloon, a moldy church, and little else worth talking about. There isn’t even a sheriff. But the local cobbler has gone missing at the same time as a number of graves were desecrated.
Crowley must follow the clues, all while dealing with a cutthroat gang that treats Dead Acre like they own it, an extraordinary woman who makes it hard to focus, and locals not keen on strangers.
Life isn’t simple for a Hand of God.
It sounded pretty cool. I should have paid attention to the part where it was pitched as ‘The Witcher meets the The Dresden Files‘. That was definitely trying too hard. Then there was the fact that it was free…
The novella is only 145 minutes long, so it should have been an afternoon snack. It was packed with good things: a supernatural ‘Hand Of God’ revenant as the almost-good-guy with an angel handler who is more than a little creepy and a lawless small town with werewolves, animated skeletons and a beautiful weeping wife who spends her time in town’s only saloon. Yet, after an hour, the story already felt that it had gone on too long. Some of that was down to the monotonous narration – yep, Roger Clark has a great deep gravelly voice but that gets old quickly if there’s no variety. The storytelling suffered from being trapped in a first person point of view of a man who really wasn’t that interesting. If Dresden had Crowley’s charisma, I doubt there’d have been a second Dresden File.
When my 145 minutes were up, I was left feeling that this novella was a missed opportunity. The ideas were strong. It might make good TV. There could even be a good series here but what should have been a light, fun snack of a book, turned out to be something heavy and flavourless.