Well, I'm home from a weekend of camping, which lead to an evening of sitting on the deck of a rented camper finishing R. S. Belcher's latest novel, The Brotherhood of the Wheel.
Now, earlier on this week, I had posted that this one was a bit like a cross between Seanan McGuire and Simon R. Green. After finishing it, I think we can add Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Clive Barker's Books of the Art to that list. This is not to say it's not an original and exhilarating read, but more to say it's one of those that left me hungry to read other books I felt echoing through the prose while waiting for Mr. Belcher to release a new one eventually. (On the bright side, a quick perusal of goodreads shows he's got a third Golgotha coming, and a follow up to Nightwise in the works. Hopefully Jimmie also gets a sequel.)
So, here we go. Jesse James Aussapile is a long distance trucker with his own rig. He also operates as a Knight in the Brotherhood of the Wheel. Which is... well... shorthand for being part of one of the three branches left of the Knights Templar after the dissolution a few millennia ago. (The others, The Benefactors and The Builders have their own foci. We'll come back here in a sec.) The Brethren are kind of a loose alliance of folks who patrol the roads trying to keep people safe from BAD things. The Builders are the knowledge gatherers, and The Benefactors the influence peddlers. We meet Jimmie outside St. Louis as he helps stop a highway serial killer who thinks of himself as the Marquis. (He read 120 Days of Sodom, skipping the philosophical bits.)
Jimmie has a 14 year old daughter and a pregnant wife who know very little of his side job that doesn't pay much of anything.
We meet Heck, who rides with the Blue Jocks, a Motorcycle club his mom and adoptive dad work with. Heck's stepfather has died when we meet him, leaving his mother to tell him to seek out Uncle Jimmie and become his squire.
We have Lovina, an investigator out of New Orleans, investigating a series of missing children. Who gets confronted by Black Eyed Kids. Who are pretty much what they sound like, children and teens with black eyes staring out from under hoodies, who knock on doors and tell people to join them. No one knows what happens to thos who take them up on their offer.
Eventually, we also get Max, a Builder, who comes out to help figure out what's up with all the mysteries.
Also, in the mix, although a separate story line until about 2/3 of the way through, we have the town of Four Houses, somewhere in Kansas near the geographical center of the US. Except no one knows where the heck it actually is. We enter Four Houses with 4 teenagers on their way to a party, who get run off the road by a guy on a motorcycle who's helmet is like that of a Japanese Oni. The Scode brothers tow them to town, wherein one girl dies by Black Eyed Children, two get captured, and one Ava, finds shelter with the town crone, a former M15 operative taking care of her dementia ridden husband.
Lest I forget, another subplot in here revolves around two missing adults, one of whom is on good terms with George Norse, who runs a late night AM radio show exploring the supernatural as well as a TV show.
There's a heck of a lot of metaphysical theory in here. Some of it, the idea of the US highway and interstate system being physical representations of Ley Lines (or long xian, dragon lines), I'm familiar with. While I won't comment on the validity of the theory, I think anyone who's live anywhere along I70 can confirm the thing is a weather line. Others, like the idea of the 3 feminine principle embodied in Maiden, Mother, and Crone and the male principle embodied in The Horned Lord are also represented by the Tetragramaton, I wasn't. His timeline is a bit off on some stuff, since he mentions reports of Shadow People not showing up until the 90's.....
Like his other three published books, this one delights in peeling back a layer of objective reality and giving us a peek at some alternate realities that exist behind the curtain. And, like the other three, the conclusion leaves me, the reader, wanting more.