I recently received a review copy of The Body Cartel by Alan Spencer. Neither the book nor the author were familiar to me, but the premise of the book was intriguing and the cover art was absolutely phenomenal (you all know I am a sucker for a sweet cover). Fortunately, when I actually began reading the book, I wasn’t let down – indeed, I was in for a very pleasant and entertaining surprise. But, I am getting ahead of myself. First, a little bit more about the book itself; The Body Cartel is published by a smallish independent publisher called Damnation Books. After doing a little bit of research, I am way impressed with this little publishing house. They specialize in ebooks, and they have a very creative pricing strategy for their downloads – the first download purchased of any given title is free, and the price goes up by a nickel with each additional download, until the full retail price is reached. It is a great incentive for avid readers to get in on the newest releases as quickly as possible, and it’s also a great way to increase early sales for new and up-and-coming authors.
Additionally, Damnation Books exclusively focuses on what I love above all else – dark fiction. Yay!!
Now, back to The Body Cartel. The book is about a middle-aged couple, Jericho and Maddy, who relocate from Colorado to Ray City, Arizona after an unfortunate fire disrupts their livelihood and their lives. Fortunately, they receive a big enough insurance payout to put some money down on their dream home, a delightful property in a remote area, as well as on a resort hotel that they plan on operating until retirement. Unfortunately, their dream quickly turns into a bizarre, surreal nightmare when they notice that their basement wall has sprung a putrid leak and soon thereafter begin to hear what sound like human wailing from within the same walls. Perturbed and angry that their new home appears to be suffering from an expensive structural defect, the couple begins to contact experts to determine the source of the ever-increasing leak.
Unfortunately, the source of the leak and ghostly noises is far more disturbing than the couple could ever imagine, a fact that becomes apparent only a couple of days after moving in, when Maddy is home alone. After awakening from a nap, Maddy begins to hear steady and increasingly loud noises emanating from her basement. Confident that the basement door is locked, she attempts to call the police for assistance, only to be brutally attacked.
When Jericho returns home, he is shocked to find his home overrun by police, a huge hole in his basement wall, and his wife missing. After being forcibly removed from his own house, he enlists the assistance of his police officer cousin Alex in order to figure out what is going on and to find his wife. It immediately becomes clear to Jericho that he and his wife have unwittingly become tangled up in a world of cartels, drug smuggling, violence, torture, murder, and police corruption. And if he ever wants to see his wife again alive, he is going to have to rescue her without the assistance of law enforcement.
What follows is a macabre and unbelievable dissent into a world that may very well exist under our feet at this very moment.
All in all, I really enjoyed The Body Cartel. It was fast paced, but still left enough room for character development, so I actually cared what happened to the Maddy and Jericho. (Nothing is more off-putting to me than a book with a great plot and crappy characters). Also, in addition to the personal story involving Maddy and Jericho and their struggle to survive, readers are treated to a sneak peek into the dark, seedy and violent world of drug smuggling and cartels. It makes you question the lengths human beings will go to build their wealth, and also makes you wonder what is really going on in the oft-ignored world of organized crime and missing person’s cases. (There are currently thousands of unsolved missing person’s cases in Arizona*** alone…and nobody just vanishes. So, where do they go, and how long do they languish there after their loved ones stop searching?) I give this one a 4 ½ star rating. I tore through it in about 2 ½ hours – it was very engrossing – and it also made me think, which I love.