On the highways and back roads of the USA, a secret society allied to the legendary Knights Templar is working to keep the population safe from all the serial killers and supernatural entities that prey upon the unsuspecting traveller. It’s a dangerous job that takes a very heavy toll on its membership, especially the trucker Jimmie Aussapile, who has followed his father into the Brotherhood and is finding it increasingly difficult to keep his family removed from his life on the road. He is behind in his mortgage payments and his heavily pregnant wife is about to give birth at any moment. Jimmie Aussapile needs a rest but events take a chillingly personal turn when a young girl climbs into his cab, knows his name, warns him about the obscene menace that devoured her friends -- and then disappears.
Before he knows it, Jimmie is on a collision course with an immortal serial killer called The Pagan, who has spent centuries sacrificing victims to the Horned Man and now has a deranged plan to destroy the world. But New Orleans police detective Lovina Marcou is on that collision course as well – while tracking down a disappeared teenager she finds herself pursued by a relentless army of demonic Black Eyed Children, The Pagan’s footsoldiers in his war against humanity.
But to make matters even more complicated for Jimmie - he has a new ‘squire’ to train, a young biker who is dealing badly with the recent death of his father, a wise-cracking vigilante, who could either be a valuable new recruit or a dangerously loose cannon.
Jimmie Aussapile featured briefly in R S Belcher's previous novel Nightwise but this is the first time we really get to understand who he is and the enigmatic Brotherhood he is a part of. This is muscular storytelling that takes no time charging out of the starting gate and, for the most part, it makes for genuinely exciting and unsettling reading. Belcher’s theories about the mythical Black Eyed Children are compelling, and his central concept, with its shades of The Wicker Man, keeps the pages turning. But there are one or two bumps in the road – a scene at a nightclub in the Bayou, when Aussapile introduces his friends to a famous rock n’ roll icon-turned-demon hunter, is a nice idea but flirts dangerously with pastiche, and the inevitable ‘countdown’ of an ending, as Aussapile rushes to prevent the end of the world, is entertaining to read but far too formulaic. We’ve read and seen this kind of ending far too often, and it’s a shame that Belcher couldn’t have found a more original, less by-the-numbers way, to wind up the climax, especially considering some of the outstanding writing that preceded it.
Still, these are small criticisms when the rest of the book is so impressive. This is a fantastic story masterfully told, the ‘unnerved glance over your shoulder while you’re reading’ quotient is reasonably high, and we hope Jimmie Aussapile will be climbing behind the wheel again very soon.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE WHEEL / AUTHOR: R.S. BELCHER / PUBLISHER: TOR BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW