Anything published by DarkFuse is worth reading and I was excited to dive into “A Beautiful Madness” by Lee Thompson when I got an advance review copy. DarkFuse has come to be known as the premier publisher of horror fiction but “A Beautiful Madness” promised to be something a little different as the novel is more of a crime novel, albeit very dark crime fiction, rather than a horror novel and I was curious to see what surprises the story held in store for me.
A young man turns up brutally murdered on a disgraced former Texas governor’s lawn on the same day that his parents, a Texas senator and his wife, turn up missing. Detective Jim Thompson spearheads the police’s search for the missing couple and the son’s murderer and soon finds himself tangled in a web of deceit and violence. At the same time, Sammy Woods launches and investigation of his own into the crime. Woods believes that his father, the former governor, is responsible due to his father’s violent past that left his mother crippled and ended his father’s political career. Neither man can begin to imagine the truth behind the crime.
While Detective Thompson works on the case from the side of the law, Sammy uses the connections he has made as a drug dealer to solve the mystery through other channels. When he learns that his sister has been stealing from him and was involved with the murdered man, his search for her turns up a mysterious stranger from her past that just may be the key to everything that has happened. Now the question is whether or not the two men can find this stranger before it is too late.
“A Beautiful Madness” is a very strong novel that does a good job of blending the elements of horror and mystery into a story that is unique and compelling. There are many levels of intrigue in this story as Thompson brings together a diverse cast of characters and then places them in a blender of violence and mayhem that they must try to unravel as the clock continues to tick down toward destruction. He keeps the tension ratcheted up throughout the novel and keeps the reader guessing not only as to what is going to happen next but also what has happened in the past that has led to the violence. Thompson uses a unique blend of horror and mystery to keep the novel entertaining while at the same time adding a depth to the story and characters that is too often missing in mystery or noir fiction.
The thing that makes “A Beautiful Madness” really stand out for me is the depth of the characters in the story, especially the mysterious stranger that is behind the violence. While this person is a murderer and thus could easily be passed off as a one dimensional character, a simple catalyst for the story, Thompson spends a lot of time developing the character so that the reader understands the motivation behind the characters actions. This turns the character from just being the villain to being a completely rounded character that evokes sympathy even in the midst of the heinous acts. Every character in this book is fully developed and seemed so real that I often found myself rooting for all of them even though I knew that bad things would happen to some. There is a depth of emotion in “A Beautiful Madness” that moves it well beyond the level of being just a mystery novel to being a work that I got emotionally invested in. With its heavy noir and a touch of horror as well as a full serving of humanity, “A Beautiful Madness” is just simply one of the best novels of the year.
I would like to thank DarkFuse and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “A Beautiful Madness” is scheduled to be released by DarkFuse in August and is available for preorder now.