Review: Black Magic by Russell James [audiobook]

Black Magic
By Russell James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My original BLACK MAGIC audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Black magic is the name of the game in this entertaining horror story from Russell James. Dark magician Lyle Miller has set up shop in the downtown portion of the dying Citrus Glade, Florida, where his magic shop draws the attention of four teenage misfits and a priest who suspects devilry is afoot. Such is the opening of Lyle's Grand Adventure, which promises to deliver plenty of bloody murder alongside an apocalyptic storm that will wipe Citrus Glade and all its inhabitants clean off the map.

Black Magic was a nice surprise to discover. At first, I had thought the story lacked focus as much of the first hour of this 8 1/2 hour listen is devoted to introducing the book's major players, of which there are many. James assembles a large cast to wreak plenty of havoc upon, ranging from the mayor of Citrus Glade to the town's sole DPW worker, a citrus farming family, a drug mule, a handful of retirees living in an old folks home, and more. Thankfully, Black Magic rewards the patient listener and James draws his diverse cast together in a few surprising ways, drawing them all into various energetic and action-packed set pieces. This book also served as my introduction to Russell James, and I was pleasantly surprised at his ruthlessness as he dispatched characters in some rather unsettling, and magically showy, ways (it's only after having listened to Black Magic that I now realize I have several other titles from this author on my Kindle, which I'm now forced to move up the reading queue a bit!). The classic trick of sawing somebody in half gets a gory, gut-twisting workout in a scene I won't soon forget, and James riffs on several other well-known magic tricks along the way in wonderfully gruesome scenarios. James doesn't pull any punches and, frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

On narrating duties is David Stifel, whose baritone voice gives this book's various horrors rich gravitas and plenty of weight. Having listened to a few of Stifel's other readings, I knew what to expect from this reliable narrator and wasn't disappointed. Black Magic is a fun work in its own right, but Stifel makes it an easy listen to sink into. He's a pro, delivering a well-finished audiobook with no noticeable flaws in the production.

Russel James delivers a highly enjoyable and engaging magic-based horror thriller. Black Magic is more Wes Craven than Charmed, so if you're looking for a fun, pulpy romp with plenty of darkness and savagery, this should fit the bill rather well. And if that doesn't sell you, there's some mean alligator action as a nice bonus!

[Audiobook provided for review by the]

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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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