By Grady Harp
February 24, 2020
Canadian author M.J. Preston is rapidly becoming recognized as one the more impressive writers of horror fiction. His novels to date: THE EQUINOX, ACADIA EVENT, and The Highwayman Series, of which HIGHWAYMAN is Book 1 (book 2, FOUR, is soon to be released). In addition to his novels, Preston has been a contributor to short story anthologies, collections that focus on dark themes.
Finding the platform for creating a novel (and series!) about a diabolical serial killer is a challenge to all writers, a challenge that MJ Preston has comfortably mastered. His entry into his story, shared with raw language, seems adequately comfortable to the reader – a scene that introduces crime reporter Horace Montillo (aka Harry) and a Detective Perkins in a sultry Kentucky office in the year 2008 as an interview regarding ‘Highwayman’ and one ‘Norris” – and the story begins.
As Chapter One surfaces, we are witness to a grisly murder played out as a bar encounter that ends in one of the more heinous murder descriptions on paper. And that is only the beginning of the crimes that cover the time frame 2000 to 2007! The drawn out detail of the description of the encounter, from passion and lust to…murder sets a tone for the remainder of the book.
Preston’s synopsis shares the plot without destroying the anxiety-riddled pace that makes this book so engrossing: ‘Lance Belanger has only one ambition, to be the most infamous killer of all time. After murdering a single mom and her toddler child, Lance indoctrinates himself into the world of serial murder. Before long, the bodies start turning up all over the country. Each victim is incapacitated by a puncture wound to the spine, then, while still alive, they are dismembered, their arms, legs, and head are severed from the torso. FBI investigators call their killer “Highwayman.” But beyond the multi-state dumping of staged victims, the killer has left them little else to go on. With no DNA or forensic evidence, veteran FBI agent Lewis Ash is in a race against retirement as he tracks the elusive murderer. Meanwhile, Lance has other plans that will up his game and increase his body count. In a web of murder that reaches from the United States to Bucharest, Romania, a diabolical plan is set into motion to attract the most dangerous predators the world has to offer. Can the FBI stop this killer before he sets his plan into motion?’
Prose of this quality is rare in horror stories, but Preston magnetizes our attention from the first of the serial crimes to the last, preparing us for the wait for Book 2 in this impressive series. Cinematic adaptation? Not necessary, as the imagery and action depiction and inherent terror, suffice.
This is a stunning achievement!
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