Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
During the 1980s and early 90s, Robert McCammon was at the top of his career having written such horror novels as Bethany’s Sin, They Thirst, Mystery Walk, Usher’s Passing, Swan Song, The Wolf’s Hour and then a number of suspenseful mainstream books like Boy’s Life, Mine, and Gone South. The author then wrote a historical novel, Speaks the Nightbird, which was the first in the “Matthew Corbett” series and dealt with a young law clerk who travels with his employer and mentor to North Carolina in the late 1600s to try a woman accused of witchcraft. What Corbett encounters is an innocent woman in jail and a town filled with evil secrets, not to mention the dangers lurking around every dark corner. Strange as it may seem, no publisher was interested in this novel. They didn’t think Mr. McCammon’s fans would buy a historical novel. They were wrong. But, because of his frustration in finding a publisher for his book, Mr. McCammon stopped writing altogether for nearly ten years.
Fortunately for his fans, River City Publishing decided to give Speaks the Nightbird a shot in 2002 and published an extremely nice hardcover of it. The response from the readers for the novel was so enthusiastic that the author decided to write a sequel, The Queen of Bedlam, which was published five years later and continued the adventures of Matthew Corbett after his experiences in North Carolina. This time around, the young clerk is asked to join the Herald Agency, which was the first detective agency in the Colonies. He was to become a problem solver with its other member, Hudson Greathouse. In this book, Corbett encounters an international crime cartel, which is led by the infamous Professor Fell and is nearly killed at the end by the good professor’s accomplices. It definitely sets the stage for future things in the upcoming novels.
The third book in the series is Mister Slaughter, which picks up a few months after The Queen of Bedlam. Matthew Corbett is now a celebrity after his harrowing experiences in the second novel. He has also been marked for death by the notorious Professor Fell. To add to the mix, both Corbett and Greathouse are hired by the city to escort a prisoner, Tyranthus Slaughter, from an asylum outside of Philadelphia back to New York so he can be shipped to London for hanging. It seems Slaughter murdered several people in England before making his way to the colonies in order to hide. Now, what should be an easy task for Corbett and Greathouse proves to be more difficult than either of them expects. For you see, Slaughter is quick to figure out the weaknesses of each man and to put them to use as he entices them with the prospects of a hidden cache of money. Against their better judgment, they decide to have Slaughter lead them to the buried coins and then to keep him as a prisoner, rather than granting his wish and allowing him to escape. But, escape, he does. Hudson Greathouse is seriously wounded during the prisoner’s run for freedom and then Corbett blames himself for the fiasco, knowing if he had only made a decision based on wisdom, Slaughter would still be in chains and on his way to face the hangman’s noose. But, if that had happened, there wouldn’t be a story for us to read.
With the help of a nearby tribe of Indians, Greathouse is given basic medical attention, while Corbett chases after Slaughter, determined to catch the man who almost killed them. To do this, he will have the assistance of Walks in Two Worlds, a warrior who has his own demons to battle, but decides to help Corbett in his quest. For me, this is when the adventure actually begins as Slaughter leaves a trail of blood and guts for Corbett to follow. You see, Slaughter isn’t your ordinary, everyday killer. No, he’s a special breed of psychopath who thoroughly enjoys the destruction of everything he encounters. Nothing makes him happier than butchering an entire family with his large knife or straight razor. In fact, Slaughter makes Hannibal Lector look like a Boy Scout by the sheer amount of carnage he leaves behind in his wake.
At first, Matthew is determined to capture Slaughter alive, but as time passes and more people are murdered, he changes his mind, realizing this person is a monster in disguise, and that the only way to stop a monster is to kill it. The journey of chaos and mayhem that Matthew takes will slowly aid him in becoming a man as he witnesses the death of friends and eventually has to kill another human being in self-defense. Even more, his whole outlook on life changes as he comes into contact with an evil so corrupting and vile that it leaves him shocked and disgusted by man’s inhumanity to his brethren.
Robert R. McCammon, brings all of his creative talent to play in this grand adventure. His characters and scenes are vividly drawn and come to life in ways that profoundly touch the reader. I’ll never forget the scenes in which the character of Tom is holding his wounded dog up to keep the animal from feeling the pain of its broken back, or when Walks in Two Worlds realizes the time has come for him to go with the spirits, and the moment when Lark and her mother attempt to save Matthew from being shot by Slaughter in their act of surrendering to the inevitable. This is writing at its absolute best and few can do it as well as Robert R. McCammon.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I am utterly addicted to the “Matthew Corbett” books and find it difficult to wait for each new novel to be published. I therefore have nothing but praise for this series of thick novels and their main character. If you want some well-written and entertaining fiction to help get you through the suumer, you won’t go wrong with Mister Slaughter, or the two books before it. Buy them, and then take a journey back into Colonial American for the adventure of a lifetime.
One last note, it seems this novel hasn’t been picked up by a paperback publisher though I was certain a Trade Paperback had actually been done. The only available formats at the present are the Hardcover edition and the E-book.
Order Mister Slaughter here.