Reviewed by David Brzeski
The novella had almost died out until the Amazon Kindle breathed new life into it. It’s interesting to see that paper-based publishers have now also revived the form. This is a short read , but if anything that simply meant it wasnâ€™t subject to the amount of padding that became common when paperbacks were judged by their thickness.
The book is set in the present day and Moonstone seem to be employing what I refer to as the comic book shifting time frame scenario. What I mean is this: Carl Kolchak is not quite 40 years old in this book, but only a few years have passed since his first adventure, which was published in the early 70s. I had no problem with that. I lived with similar situations for decades while reading Spider-Man, or Batman and felt quite content in those days before the fans and writers got the continuity bug and found themselves having to update the origins of their characters every couple of decades.
C.J. Henderson captures the world-weary cynicism of Kolchak perfectly and this, more than anything is what makes to book work. This is Kolchak! You can see him in your mind. You can hear his voice.
Eschewing the normal monsters that our reluctant hero has to contend with, this story takes us into H. Rider Haggard territory, albeit the jungle is in modern day South America, rather than Victorian Africa. Unusually for a Kolchak case we don’t meet any monsters. That’s not to say there aren’t any, but we don’t see them in the story. There’s a temple, where â€œthe 72 must always beâ€, and a couple of groups of rival drug lords who believe there’s knowledge and power to be gained. Needless to say, things don’t go exactly the way anyone planned. I suspect (and hope) that the 72 may return in future C.J. Henderson stories.