cover image Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Laird Barron. Putnam, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1289-3

Barron’s second novel featuring retired mob strongman Isaiah Coleridge (after 2018’s Blood Standard) is as nasty as a cornered pit viper—and its plot is about as sinuous. Isaiah is newly established as a PI in his Hudson River Valley digs when he’s contacted by the Albany Syndicate to investigate the murder of thug-for-hire Henry Lee. Someone removed Lee’s head and hands with a serrated blade before dumping his corpse in the Ashokan Reservoir, a ghoulish dispatch that recalls the handiwork of Morris Oestryke—a psychopathic hit man and serial murderer, whose kill count is legendary and whose techniques border on the supernatural. The only problem is that Oestryke is supposed to have died in an explosion and/or been assassinated by the mob. Meanwhile, Isaiah discovers that Lee’s girlfriend is the daughter of an industrialist mogul whose business concerns reek of black ops espionage and cover-ups. Barron peppers the text with literary references and philosophical reflections that provide rich counterpoint to the violent bashing and bloodletting. Fans of hardboiled crime fiction and wiseguy vernacular will be well satisfied. Agent: Janet Reid, New Leaf Literary & Media. (May)