Fiction Reviews


Ragman

(2023) J. G. Faherty, Flame Tree Press, £20 / Can$34.95 / US$26.95, hrdbk, 256pp, ISBN 978-1-787-58743-4

 

I suppose that iconic horror monster, the mummy, has fared better in film than in book-form. Certainly, after several Universal films starring Lon Chaney Jnr., things improved with some offerings from Hammer Films, and the three films starring Brendan Fraser, although letís not mention that Tom Cruise film from 2017. Books, though, have been a different matter as there is no ďbigĒ book serving mummies, the same way that vampires have Dracula and monsters have Frankenstein, although Anne Rice did write three books about Ramses the Damned, the last two co-written with her son, Christopher Rice; and legendary horror writer, Charles L. Grant wrote The Long Night of the Grave, one of three books he wrote as a homage to the old horror movies he loved, the other two featuring a vampire and a werewolf. Finally, letís not forget a couple of books from R. L. Stine as part of his Goosebumps series for the younger audience.

Ragman by J. G. Faherty maybe isnít that iconic, overarching, mummy book, but it certainly is a whole lot of fun beginning with a sort of prologue. The first two parts of which are set in Egypt in 1888, with the third, final, part set in New York, a year ago. Then the book moves on to the first of twenty-nine chapters set-in present-day New York.

Back in the 19th century, some bad Brits plunder an Egyptian temple, kill Ahmes ll, the high priest and make off with the loot to become very rich, and their families become even richer over the years, handily, settling in New York, which makes it easy for the revived priest and a demon in the form of a mummy to exact his revenge with a series of gruesome, almost unbelievable murders. Yet, they did happen, but how, and by whom? Enter two cops, or rather a cop and an ex-cop, namely Detective Daniel Reese and security guard Tom Rierden, who used to be partners and best buddies, who have to put their differences aside and work together to solve the crimes, aided by two women Ė Danís wife, Joanna, who works in forensics, and Tomís girlfriend who works in a museum.

So what we get here from Faherty is a mash-up of supernatural horror, thriller, history, romance, and police procedural with several back stories involving the original crime and the descendants of the desecrators; as well as Ahmesí desire for revenge on them, and his quest of getting back the artefacts that were stolen, and the history of Dan and Tom and their falling out and reluctant getting back together again, all against a background of some pretty gory murders, so whatís not to love?

Ragman isnít that stand-out mummy book, nor is it without its flaws. The central idea of a tomb being desecrated is well-worn theme in mummy films throughout the years, along with vengeful priests, stolen treasures and a mummy on the rampage, but it is a fast-moving story, told through several viewpoints that gathers speed as it plummets towards a climax, and has the interesting twist of reading like a police procedural but with supernatural overtones, although there is the slight drawback that the reader knows more than those doing the investigating until they finally join up the dots.

All-in-all Ragman is an enjoyable romp and would make me look out for future Faherty offerings.

Ian Hunter

 


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