White Knights and Other Pawns by Bracken MacLeod
Book Review by Sadie Hartmann
Bracken MacLeod is a talented writer; he’s a skilled author of many genres. I discovered this when I read 13 Views of the Suicide Woods last year. There were about a dozen short stories in that collection and I was so impressed with the diversity and versatility represented in each and every story. As soon as I finished that collection, I knew I must try a novel, so I bought Stranded, which is praised highly and critically acclaimed in the horror community. I read it earlier this year and I loved it.
Just about a month ago, Bracken MacLeod was kind enough to send me White Knight and Other Pawns to read and review. I absolutely fell in love with the cover and was intrigued by the synopsis claiming that White Knight and Other Pawns was a re-released crime/suspense/thriller noir novella and included some other short stories he wrote in that genre.
I have to tell you, if this was the first Bracken MacLeod book that I picked up, I would think that crime noir was his wheelhouse so it’s amazing to me that MacLeod is also an accomplished horror author–what can’t he write??
My favorite aspect of Bracken’s writing is his dialogue. Much of the character development is done through compelling, authentic and unique dialogue from any character he brings into a scene. In the novella titled White Knight, MacLeod tells a fast paced, first person narrative of a protagonist working social cases in the D.A.’s office; mostly battered and abused women.
I loved being in this character’s mind. For instance, a woman walks into the office on “an invisible leash” our guy tells us. Then he explains to us what that means in his line of work and how it makes him feel. We get all this insight and backstory leading up to a conversation so that we, the reader get all the gripping dialogue and the inner mind chat of our protagonist as this interaction takes place.
This kind of storytelling makes for page-turning action I LIVE for. Before the reader knows it, Bracken pulls you deep into a complicated story with vibrant characters and many twists and turns. Then it’s over. The ending like a whip crack in your mind.
But then, on to the next! And the next and the next! Each story totally different in narrative, subject and style but all of them bearing Bracken’s fingerprints and unique voice. For example, the story after WHITE KNIGHT is called, “Lydia Loses Her Car” which is about this protagonist I HATED as a human being. This guy is at his best friend’s wedding and all he thinks about is creeping on chicks and possible hook-ups. It was frustrating and disgusting as the story progresses and the guy is basically hunting down this woman he doesn’t even know–he has one thing on his mind. But then the ending.
You’re still recovering from one story as you ease into the next story. Each one is memorable in their own right.
Friends and fellow horror lovers–MacLeod fans, my suggestion is that if you’re like me and already have an appetite for short stories AND you’re a big hardboiled, crime-thriller noir fan, you’re going to want this for your collection. Trust your Mother Horror.
About Sadie Hartmann:
Sadie Hartmann, aka Mother Horror, is a reviewer for SCREAM Magazine and Cemetery Dance online. She is also the co-creator and co-owner of Night Worms, a subscription-based book club curating the finest and latest in horror releases.