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By Joe R. Lansdale
Vintage Books/Random House, 2007 ($13.95)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
Harry Wilkes had the mumps, just the mumps, his mother told the doctor after finding him passed out on the floor with a raging fever. Harry had one hell of an ear infection, and when the worst was over he was left with some hearing loss and something much more troubling. Young Harry had visions, terrible visions of murder and mayhem, set off by ordinary noises whenever he was in an area where pain and violence had occurred. His parents tried everything, took him to doctors and specialists of all kinds, but no physical reason could be found for his ability. As he grew older he learned to keep it to himself, and he found that booze worked well to keep the visions away. It didnít help him much in the rest of his life, however, especially his college studies and his relationships.
One fateful night, when he was at a bar getting blitzed with his best buddy Joey, he saw three tough guys hassling a middle-aged drunk. When they followed the man outside, Harry decided he needed to help the guy out. To his amazement, the guy totally whupped up on all his assailants, using some clumsy but effective martial arts moves. Then he passed out among their bodies. Harry, still playing the good Samaritan, took him home to sober up. His new-found friend, Tad Peters, turned out to be a wealthy alcoholic and former martial arts sensei who lost it after his wife and child died. He and Harry developed a close bond and began a path of recovery together.
Harry grew up dirt poor, and heís struggling to make something of himself. Heís shocked and very, very pleased when rich girl Talia McGuire takes an interest in him. When childhood friend Kayla returns to his life, things get more complicated. She was his first love, but that was a long time ago. Now sheís a cop, like her father, and sheís asking Harry to use his abilities to prove that he did not commit suicide in a particularly humiliating way, but that he was murdered. There are some very powerful men, including Taliaís father and the police chief, who donít want them nosing around, and they can make some very bad things happen to them.
Lansdale is a prolific and talented writer, with a firm understanding of the piney woods of east Texas and the people who live and die there. This is one of his most interesting novels, and thatís saying something.
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