After reading "Parish Damned", all I can say is "Lee Thomas, where have you been all my life?"
Simply put, this is the BEST novella I've ever read.
Although this is an early work, it is reminiscent of a more seasoned, highly imaginative author like Ray Garton at his best. The plot and setting are original, the pacing is excellent, there is building tension in every chapter, the horror level is perfect, and there are layers to this story that are strategically revealed. This would be an excellent, original movie. No wimpy, romantic vampires here, these bloodsuckers are hungry and they're not vegetarians.
It's easy to understand why the Horror Writer's Association awarded him a Bram Stoker award for his first novel "Stained" and nominated him several other times recently. The guy knows how to write! To illustrate that point, this book manages to tell a well-crafted vampire story without even using the word "vampire" anywhere in the text (I Kindle-searched the whole document)!
I stumbled onto this author because I was reviewing recent Bram Stoker award winners and finalists. I can't wait to finish "The German", 20% done and it's FANTASTIC so far!
Simply Put: A Great Book!
Having read many of this talented author's earlier works, my expectations were very high for this latest novel. My expectations were exceeded.
Lee Thomas's displays in "Butcher's Road" why his writing is at a different level than your run-of-the mill author. Using beautiful prose reminiscent of early Anne Rice, mixing in the pacing of Ray Garton, adding a quirky creativity a la Clive Barker, and then stirring it all together with his own unique sensibilities, style, and insights, he produces a book that is likely to win many awards.
Rather than rehash the story line, which other reviewers have done effectively, I will focus on what makes this not only a well-crafted, intelligent work, but also one that's just plain old fun to read.
There is something for everyone in "Butcher's Road". If the author was a tailor, this would be a splendid coat-of-many-colors. There is great attention to detail in world building as Mr Thomas lays the groundwork, even the chapter titles are meaningful and at times foreboding.
This is a period peace (1930's era), with gangsters, hit men, a surprise romantic relationship, and paranormal elements (a secret society and artifacts with mystical qualities). The story is action packed with realistic, well-defined supporting characters. There aren't any "slow" parts.
The main character, Butch Cardinal is sympathetic but flawed, prone to violence, pragmatic, honest, and determined. He is mentally tough but vulnerable and is ultimately a person of great integrity who is largely misunderstood.
The only slight criticism I have is that at the end of "Butcher's Road", I still didn't have a firm grasp of exactly who Butch Cardinal was, what motivated him, and what would likely become of him. That said, maybe this was intentional since not fully understanding a character is somehow more satisfying and interesting than having absolute certainty.
"Always leave 'em wanting more" as the saying goes, and with this work, Lee Thomas has absolutely guaranteed that I will continue to do just that.