Review: Bleed by Ed Kurtz

By Ed Kurtz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Home-ownership is so much fun, let me tell you. If you ever feel like you have too much free time and too much money on hand, get yourself a house. Go on, get one. You can thank me later. There's always some damn thing or another to fix, and once you find one thing in need of repair, you can goddamn guarantee another ten issues, big and small, will erupt all around it. The roof leaks and needs to be repaired, while the sump pump is on its last legs, and the fairly new refrigerator just so happens it doesn't feel like working anymore, usually right after you've loaded it all up with fresh new groceries. And maybe, just maybe, there's an odd stain on the hallway ceiling outside your bedroom.

It's such a stain that captures the attention of Walt Blackmore, proud new owner of a fixer-upper farmhouse. Walt's a teacher, and just about ready to propose to his girlfriend, Amanda. Just as soon as he gets the house in order, and figures out what the deal with that stain is. He's tried cleaning it off, tried painting over it, even inspected the attic and failed to find the source, but nothing's working. The stain is still there...and the stain, well. The stain is growing. And it's also hungry.

And it seems to be driving Walt more than a little bit crazy.

Bleed, by Ed Kurtz, might be the single bloodiest book I can recall reading. This sucker practically drips blood, and I swore more than a few times that my Kindle was strangely squishy, but that might have just been from sweaty palms gripping the e-reader tightly as the story hauled me along. Or it could have been blood. Could be that freaky stain was spreading right through the wi-fi and through the Kindle itself...

So yeah, this is a gory, gory, gory book. Kurtz packs the pages chock-full of mayhem and murder, hardly letting a single chapter go by without somebody or something getting hurt, maimed, dismembered, butchered, or violated in some violent fashion or another. Some readers might find this off-putting, while others might find it too repetitive. I was OK with it...which is maybe not the best admission to make? But whatever.

I only have two complaints, really. One is the book carries on a little longer than necessary, but your mileage may certainly vary. Two, and here I'll issue a SPOILER warning: Walt is pretty much the blacksheep of his family, but we never really learn why. His sister, Sarah, calls him a sociopath at one point, but I kept wondering what happened in their familial history to make this the case. Amanda considers him eccentric, perhaps with a dash of social anxiety disorder, but nothing too severe. Her relationship with Walt was pretty good natured, and earned a few chuckles from me. Outside of their, on the surface, healthy couplehood, there's no reason to suspect Walt of being crazy aside from the impact of the paranormal, which comes a number of years after Walt split from his family. I really wanted to know more about his past with Sarah. Was it just bitter sibling rivalry, personality conflicts, or something deeper? There's a story there, but one Kurtz leaves regretfully unexplored.

This caveat aside, I had a ton of fun with Bleed. It's a great, vicious, stomach-turning bit of classic horror, and one that I suspect will linger with me for quite a while.

[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher.]

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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