Review: Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell by Martin Rose

20344598 Vitus Adamson is falling apart. As a pre-deceased private investigator, he takes the prescription Atroxipine hourly to keep his undead body upright and functioning. Whenever he is injured, he seeks Niko, a bombshell mortician with bedroom eyes and a way with corpses, to piece him back together. Decomposition, however, is the least of his worries when two clients posing his most dangerous job yet appear at his door looking for their lost son. Vitus is horrified to discover the photo of the couple's missing son is a picture-perfect reproduction of his long dead son. This leads him to question the events of his tormented past; he must face the possibility that the wife and child he believed he murdered ten years ago in a zombie-fugue have somehow survived . . . or is it just wishful thinking designed to pull him into an elaborate trap?

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I don't actually care about the ethics of blogging or whatever, so this is the first and last time I'll mention it.

Bring Me Flesh, I'll Bring Hell is a genre-aware horror noir novel. There seem to be a few of those lately, which is something I'm pleased about. Now zombies aren't really my thing, but I don't think it's quite fair to call Vitus a zombie. More of an undead private eye or a Hellboy kind of thing. Minus the brawls.

Vitus has spent a decade being dead and slowly falling apart, when a couple of clients shows up at his doorstep with a photo of their son, who has gone missing. Only the picture is actually a photo of Vitus's son all grown up, even though he's supposed to have died ten years ago in Vitus's hands. At the time, Vitus was more of a traditional zombie and had fed on his wife and kid, before the people responsible for his condition came up with a drug that keeps him human (as much human as a decomposing corpse can be anyway). Now he takes a dose every few hours, lest he loses control again.

''We miss our son and would give anything to have him back, Mr. Adamson. Can You help us?'' ''Anything at all, Mrs. Rogers?'' ''Name your price, we'll be happy to pay it.'' ''Can you get blood out of everyday household items?''

Anyway, he takes the case if only because he needs to figure out what the hell is going on and if his son is actually alive. As per noir guidelines, this throws him down a rabbit hole of increasingly bizarre and complicated situations: A hooded figure following him around everywhere, trying to kill his clients; a femme fatale (almost literally, she's a mortician) that heals his wounds and weird clients that keep ''rising'' from the dead.

I'll try not to spoil anything, as I believe discovery is half the pleasure in a novel like this. I found the book to be very well written, if a little ''purple'' in places. However, any purple prose is satisfyingly gory, grim or funny. Nothing about sunsets and beautiful vistas, all about sinew, rotting flesh and fatalism. The plot is meaty and complicated, but not overly so. It really is a noir tale, which in my experience is rare to find, even when it says so right on the cover. Many an evening has been wasted reading The Maltese Falcon retreads.

The premise might seem ridiculous from the outside, but is handled deftly and doesn't stress your suspension of disbelief too much, even when the really bizarre stuff happens. The last third of the book moves along on a brisk pace, with revelations just around every corner and it's a pretty good ride if I may say so.

Check it out if you like: horror noir, grim humor or the Sandman Slim books.