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BOOK REVIEW 15 Miles - Rob Scott

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A long way to go, but you'll enjoy the trip

For much of its length, the supernatural merely brushes 15 Miles with the lightness of a moth's wing. There's the odd line here and there, where supporting characters say something they really shouldn't, and the occasional hallucination of dogs that should be dead, but only in the final pages are given something close to confirmation that the inexplicable has intruded onto the life of homicide detective Sailor Doyle, and propelled Rob Scott's fine novel into SFX territory.

Equal parts Stephen King and Scott Sigler, 15 Miles is first and foremost a compelling character piece, although you wouldn't think it from the outset. On paper, Doyle sounds like a combination of every flawed police procedural protagonist ever written: he's got the wife and kids but isn't happy, is overweight and unfit, seeking solace in his young mistress and too much booze and Oxycontin. And yet, Scott's lightness of touch and unfussy prose deliver unto us a likeable hero, one who it's a dark joy to spend time with - even if he does some pretty stupid, unforgivable things.

The novel’s central mystery is a doozy, too. An old couple are found dead, one seemingly mummified and hacked almost in two, the other missing strips of skin from his back, their retarded daughter Molly missing and their livestock expired. The forensic puzzle presented to us soon balloons terrifyingly to include an old military grudge and a possible pandemic. Although, on the surface, it seems that we're in Patricia Cornwell country, 15 Miles ultimately proves itself to be the best kind of ghost story: one haunted by the need to let the past go.

Jes Bickham

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