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Primal Scream: Scream If You Want, Live If You Can - Michael Slade

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Genre: Horror / Author: Michael Slade / Paperback / 432 Pages / Book is published 1998-08 by New American Library

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      23.04.2009 02:48
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      A shrunken head relives painful memories for Chief Superintendant Robert De Clerq....

      Shrink, now re-published under it's presumably American title- Primal Scream- in it's latest edition, is the last of the Michael Slade novels written by the original author team of Canadian Lawyers that carved a name for themselves in the eighties and nineties for slick horror thrillers. It picks up a story arc begun in Slade's very first collaboration and returns to a series of events that never really reached a satisfactory conclusion. Though the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have long thought the Head Hunter case closed, Slade fans have always known there were were still plenty of loose ends not resolved. This is the book then, that Slade never intended to write but that fans craved....nay, demanded....that they publish....

      John Lincoln Hardy was identified ten years ago as the infamous Head Hunter but unfortunately was taken down in the course of his arrest before he could be questioned. Canadian Police Detective Almore Flood ("What's up doc?") had his doubts about Hardy's guilt but was himself taken out as a rogue cop before those doubts could surface. In the gun-fight that took Flood's life, RCMP Chief Superintendant Robert De Clerq's second wife, Genivieve, was also killed. Hence why the aftermath of the Head Hunter case has always had a certain sense of poignancy for "The last honest man on the Force".

      Much water has passed under the bridge scince then and De Clerq is now a stronger and even more formiddable Officer; he has an adopted daughter, Katt, who gives him new hope for the first time scince the death of his true daughter, Jane, at the hands of the terrorists who also murdered his first wife; he is head of the very successful Special X division of the RCMP which investigates crimes with links outside of Canada; he is currently attracted to and attracted by by two very strong, powerful and professional women and he has a dedicated team of Mounties under his command who are loyal to a man. (or woman)

      So when somebody sends De Clerq a shrunken head in the post addressed to him at his headquarters, old wounds are reluctantly and painfully pulled open once more! Though it has been many years scince the close of the Head Hunter file, the similarities between then and this new investigation seem too many to ignore. Could they have gotten the wrong man back then? Has the real killer really been hiding disguised all this time, waiting for an oppotunity to re-emerge? Robert is not sure but, as the taunts increase, he finds himself drawn back into a mystery long thought solved.

      Meanwhile, negotiations and confrontations over confiscated native Canadian land begin to spiral into a seige situation and De Clerq's Special X team are split between the two cases; more so when a decapitated body, killed with a single arrow shot, is found encased in ice. Is this another connection or just pure coincidence? Zinc Chandler finds himself thrown in at the deep end as he tries to negotiate a peaceful settlement and track down a killer who may just be the ultimate "mad trapper" and hunter of them all....

      Once again, Slade have provided a masterpiece de resistance of crime-writing fiction that never fails to educate as well as entertain and is as much based on not-so-ancient historical fact as it is the present! Linking events from the past with events happening at the time the book is set, Slade prove themselves to be one of the most talented writing talents around whilst concluding a story that fans have long wished to see come to a close. The whole feeling of this latest yarn is a strong sense of closure as one chapter ends and a new one begins. The whole symmetry of this novel is not lost on me as the book returns to where everything began with some typical Slade twists and turns along the way. Even if you haven't read any of the others in the series (and may I recommend you do...), you can still enjoy this novel and I almost envy those coming into this book with fresh eyes as long-term fans are at the distinct disadvantage of knowing the identity of one of the killers before the book even properly starts. That said, it is good to see a plot device that has been hanging over the fans' heads for the last five books, finally get dropped to the floor with a bang not a whimper and the whole unresolved issues left unclosed at the climax of Head Hunter, brought to a highly satisfying and pleasing conclusion.

      As mentioned at the beginning, this would be the last book to be written by the original team of writers and, as such, this feels a little like the end of an era but, as Slade likes to tell us at the close of all their novels, the story survivors will return....The next book in the series would be written by Canadian Lawyer, Jay Clarke, on his own without his associates and successive books from that would involve the partnership of his daughter. That said this has to be my third favourite of their novels so far after only Head Hunter, the novel that started the ball rolling, and Ripper- Slade's first homage to classic mystery writers and locked-room whodunnits and a theme that he would revisit in a later Special X thriller, Crucified.

      There has never been a better time to experience Slade's writing and with the Speciasl X series still going strong, you could do worse than pick these early novels up! Many of them are available from as little as £1.01 used from Amazon and I garauntee that, once started, you will not be able to put any of these tense chillers down....

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