By Gary Ballard
“That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.”
― H.P Lovecraft
Set in the writing style of HP Lovecraft, The First Stone is a novella about Jack Carter’s break with reality. Jack is a forensic psychologist who awakens from a coma only to find that his wife, Sarah, is missing and presumed dead. According to those who found him, there is every possibility that he is the one who committed this heinous crime.
Fortunately, as soon as Jack is released, his old friend, Bill, informs him that a man, George Baxter, has confessed to the crime, to the murder of his wife and several other women.
Faced with a trail of bodies and a drunkard who doesn’t even remember his own confession, Jack Carter has to get inside George’s head in order to unearth the truth behind these gruesome killings. Will what he finds drive Jack over the edge? Can Jack handle the darkness surrounding this case? He must stare into the abyss… and the abyss stares right back.
The First Stone is Gary Ballard’s interesting take on an HP Lovecraft murder mystery. What’s neat about this book is that it’s broken up into episodes, like the episodes of show. The First Stone: Episode 1, Season 1.
Most of this story reads like a classic murder mystery, with clever dialogue and dark overtones. Jack, Bill, George, and the rest of the cast reminded me of the characters from a Stephen King movie or book. They had quirks, personality, and the true grit you’d expect from this sort of tale.
I found most of the book rather misleading. When I heard the mention of Cthulhu, I nearly jumped out of my seat with excitement and anticipation. But when I dove into the first stone, it took a very long time to get into anything even remotely Lovecraftean. If I were looking for a straight up who-done-it that would be one thing; however, I was really setting myself up for something out-of-this-world. In the end, the book did deliver. After I closed the final page, I had forgotten the wait and I found myself wanting more.
The artifact found in the depths of this novella’s mountain crime scene, The Stepping Stone, was a cool twist. Although I have no idea what it may be, the crap really hit the fan once this smooth stone surfaced. It alluded to something greater than all of us, and it gave that agoraphobic feel that I had been yearning for since page one.
Learning that this book was set up like a TV series, and that there were many more installments on the horizon made me forgive a lot, but as a stand-alone book The First Stone didn’t live up to the hype. If you are a fan of mysteries I would definitely check out this title. It is clever and unpredictable with a beautiful and unique writing style. I am dying to read the next installment in the Stepping Stone Cycle. The story was starting to get really freaky. Great job, Gary.
“I-I-I ‘m not your stepping stone.”