Eli Carver has a bit of a problem - he's a wanted man and there's a kidnapped woman sitting next to him in the car he's driving. That's not the real problem, though. The real problem is that he can't remember how or why he's gotten into this predicament. As an enforcer for a mob boss, Carver has killed his fair share of people, and a number of them are now sitting in the backseat of his car, rooting for his demise. To make things worse, Carver keeps experiencing lost time, blacking out just as he begins to recall the sequence of events that have put him on the run.
I haven't read Alan Baxter previously, but Manifest Recall was a solid enough introduction that I fully expect to cross paths with this author again in the future. Manifest Recall is satisfyingly violent, dark, and consistently engaging, even when you consider that not a whole lot actually happens in the first half of the book in terms of forward momentum. While there's plenty of information conveyed to the reader as Carver and Carly, the kidnapped woman, converse and Carver begins to recall certain details about himself and his past, the duo are mostly confined to the front seats of the car, driving to parts unknown and with no destination in mind. Baxter punches things up with some brief moments of violence, but much of the story is told in flashback until we hit the book's second half and the characters and readers alike are all caught up to speed. While part one of Manifest Recall is a smooth read, part two really kicks things into high gear as the story races swiftly to its big, action-packed, run-and-gun climax.
Although Manifest Recall is billed as a supernatural crime thriller, it can be read one of two ways. You either accept that the ghosts, each of them one of Carver's victims, are literally supernatural entities that only he can see and speak with, or you chalk up their presence as hallucinations belonging to a damaged man having a psychotic break with reality. Personally, I prefer the second path and while I choose to interpret Baxter's work here as more of a straight-up crime thriller, others may just as comfortably accept Carver being literally haunted. Given its billing, though, I was expecting much more spookiness and was a bit disappointed that Carver's ghosts was the be-all end-all to this story's supernatural element. However, if I approach this title as a straight-up crime story of a killer who is metaphorically haunted by his guilt and suffering an extreme mental break, Manifest Recall becomes supremely satisfying.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher, Grey Matter Press.]
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