City of Heretics by Heath Lowrance

Chris Leek
Independent Reviewer

I first discovered Heath Lowrance through his horror western stories That Damned Coyote Hill and The Long Black Train. His latest novel, City of Heretics, however, is an out and out hardboiled crime tale which proved to be every bit as dark as his genre bending shorter work.

The story centers on Crowe, an aging hard case, just out of prison and back in Memphis intent on revenge. But before he can pick at the scabs of those old wounds he is swept up in a series of savage murders, which ultimately lead him to uncover a far reaching conspiracy by a powerful Christian extremist group.

Our friend, Crowe is a stone cold killer, cynical and bitter after years of jail time. He returns to a town he now barely recognizes to find himself railroaded into the pursuit of a bizarre serial killer by the very people he came back to settle his old scores with.

Lowrance also makes a return trip to Memphis with this, his second novel (his first full length work, The Bastard Hand, was also set there) and the Bluff City provides him with a suitably gritty canvas on which to paint his brutal pictures of bad neighborhoods populated with junkie cops, gang bangers and a freak show of murderous misfits.

In spite of the fact his protagonist, Crowe is a truly nasty piece of work and possesses virtually no redeeming qualities, it's hard not to root for him as he battles his way through the violent underbelly of Lowrance's corrupt city.

City of Heretics is a well-honed story, pared down to the bone and mean as a junkyard dog. There are no distractions permitted in the drum-tight narrative and little time is given over to sentiment or lost in superficial dialogue. Every word here has purpose and seeks to propel the reader closer to the book's bloody and largely satisfying conclusion.

Heath Lowrance has taken all the elements that make for good noir and twisted them around some memorable characters to produce an edgy, uncompromising and above all entertaining read.

So now you know what I think, but opinions are like assholes, everybody has one right? Right.

Did City of Heretics float your particular hardboiled boat; does Heath Lowrance nail it or fall short of the mark? Discuss.