Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: Drollerie Press
Hex signs protect every barn and outbuilding. The local tannery spews its poison on the land and in the river. And babies disappear at birth. An orphan and one-time felon who earned his nickname "from the sound a crowbar makes when it hits a man's head," Johannes "Wump" Hozer is now the custodian of Our Lady of the Innocents parish in Three Bridges, PA. Wump is old and tired. He's fought all his life against the tannery's waste, against God, and against the blind eyes of his good neighbors. Nowadays he tries to ignore the old priest's exploits with the young women of the parish and the strangeness surrounding the local orphanage, and does what good he can for his wife, the church, the sisters who run the orphanage, and the poor orphans themselves.
Then childhood memories and strange presentments begin to plague Wump when a brick wall unearthed at the site of a new restaurant collapses, and raw sewage carries hundreds of baby bones into the pit left behind. Looks like the devil's made Three Bridges his playground, and Wump needs to find out why; the babies keep screaming and he has to make it stop.
This is one strange book. Book Dragon has not yet figured out exactly what the hell possessed her to agree to read it—but that didn’t stop her.
Mr. Bauer has created a strange and compelling tale about The Devil’s Bible (this is an actual religious relic with a very interesting history). The story pulls no punches in the way it addresses environmental, political, and religious bullshit. The story is told from the viewpoint of a man nicknamed Wump who has a very down-to-earth, easygoing voice. For the first few pages, I found it difficult to get into the story because at first that “voice” comes across as gratingly uneducated and perhaps a bit too blunt. Also, having a character named Heinie in the opening pages made it very difficult to take this book seriously at the outset. My inner five-year-old is still giggling.
I’m glad I stuck with it, though. Once you get past the prologue, the language smooths out and becomes more "adult". The story may seem to plod along at times, but the mystery of why so many people in Schuetten/Three Bridges were getting sick with leukemia, being born with mental and physical disorders, and where all the bones of dead babies in the sewer systems had come from, was sufficient to propel me through to the end.
There are some points about this book which may be found offensive. Personally, Book Dragon doesn’t mind. The good guys win out. Evil is soundly (and quite painfully – yeeowch!) trounced.
It’s hard to pinpoint who the audience for this might be. My tastes are very eclectic, and I know I occasionally enjoy books that others would find distasteful to the extreme. This, I believe, falls into that category.
If you are sensitive to any of the topics I mentioned above, you will probably not like this, but if you like horror novels—truly gritty, dark, and occasionally disgusting (both in the literal and figurative sense) horror novels—then you will probably enjoy this. I’d have to say that the closest comparison I can think of are Stephen King’s Bachman Books. If you’ve read the collection I’m referring to, think the bluntness of the story Rage. The styles and content are very different, as is the narrative voice, but in terms of the “tone” and frank language of the piece, it’s the best comparison I can come up with.
That in mind, this book is very well written, the story engaging, and—while at times predictable—is quite entertaining. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Bauer’s work in the future.