Cold Bill by R. A. Mello
William Blake Colden, stationed in the Middle East with four of his Marine buddies, is eagerly awaiting the imminent day when he can return home to his beloved girlfriend Abigail after two years at war. But suddenly, a surprise grenade attack renders he and his comrades near death; bleeding out and quickly fading, the four are approached by the legendary evil spirit Malsum, a decaying demonic wolf from Native American lore. Taken in by the wolf’s promise for healing and immortality, the four seal their fate by devouring the flesh of their Saudi attacker, bringing strength into their bodies and evil into their souls. Over the course of the next few months, the four transform into wendigo, soulless and horrific half-beasts with a thirst for human flesh. Only Bill Colden retains an ounce of his humanity, keeping his soul alive with thoughts of Abigail, even as his inner beast – Cold Bill – devours his human prey with the strategy and cunning of the most methodical serial killer.
It would be remiss to say that Cold Bill is anything less than positively gripping. The intrigue and suspense is perfectly crafted, and the confusing chaos of the first hundred pages emerges more from a place of intentional narrative manipulation than poor storytelling. However, the aura of gruesome and unsettling suspense created by Mello comes at the expense of his command of language. Mello has not quite grasped the adage of “show, don’t tell” in his narrative voice, and an additional editorial eye could greatly benefit the book in terms of its specific language use and issues of tense agreement. Mello would also do well to reconsider the lack of depth that he gives his female characters; that they are largely only prized for (and described in relation to) their beauty and sexuality underlies a vague misogyny that may be off-putting for many readers. However, despite the difficulties in establishing a clear and authoritative narrative voice, Mello’s research into Ojibwe mythology, gory description, and natural knack for creating suspense has shaped Cold Bill into a genuinely thrilling read.
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