Before you read this review, you should hear my confession. I am a tad biased in favor of The Blood Cries Out, Karl Bjorn Erickson’s debut mystery novel. The bias has nothing to do with Erickson or his novel. Rather, it has to do with the setting he chose for the book.
I love the Pacific Northwest. In fact, my relocation to the Seattle area was a near-certainty just a decade or so ago. The move to Seattle did not happen, but the experience of exploring that often-overlooked corner of America left me with an abiding love of the place.
The Northwest presents a wealth of opportunity to fiction writers. In atmosphere alone, the region is overflowing with scenic settings and diverse urban environments. If you go there and look around, you will soon understand why the Northwest is the best place on Earth to go searching for a monster like Bigfoot. It is just that vast and mysterious.
Erickson’s novel does not involve the stately mountains. Rather, it is firmly set in the habitations of Seattle and its surroundings. Erickson clearly knows and loves the city, for he spares little in the way of description. (He even mentions a restaurant I have dined at.) Being so detailed about a location can be difficult for a writer, but Erickson pulls it off.
The Blood Cries Out tells the story of Seattle Homicide Detective David Lightholler, who becomes involved in a murder investigation that would shake even a seasoned investigator. Erickson wastes little time in presenting the reader with a ghastly murder mystery that, as it was, cries out for resolution.
Set against the backdrop of Seattle, Lightholler must face his personal demons as well as the rigors of modern homicide investigation. Again, Erickson shows that he has done his homework when he describes the procedural actions of the hero.
Interestingly, the personal component of the novel often outshines the criminal. In this respect, Erickson’s writing packs a certain punch. For example, when the mother of a slain child arrives on scene, her reaction feels tragic and painful. Even reading the book in a reviewer’s frame of mind, I was instantly dragged back into the story and made to feel the emotion.
Erickson shows this again when Detective Lightholler must inform a mentally-challenged teen that her friends are dead. “Why can’t I see her?” the teen asks. After the detective informs her that her friends have been murdered, she sweetly asks, “But I can see them later, right?” Any parent who has had to deliver bad news to a child understands how big a punch that is.
As effective as those moments are, I must point out that readers looking for a gritty story in the vein of Henning Mankell’s Wallander series or something by Raymond Chandler may be disappointed. Erickson’s story feels more like a modern telling of Dragnet and less like a Philip Marlowe mystery. That is not a criticism, mind you, only an assessment. I happen to love Dragnet and wish that Jack Webb had lived long enough to bring it to the small-screen one more time.
The Blood Cries Out is a mystery novel dripping in Pacific Northwest details. Readers with fond feelings for Seattle and other Northwestern locales will appreciate every touch of scenery lovingly added in Erickson’s debut mystery novel. Readers looking for a detective novel with a human touch will also enjoy The Blood Cries Out.
About the author: A self-identified author and essayist, Mr. Erickson has written two children’s books (Toupée Mice and Tristan’s Travels) which the author describes as “light-hearted.” Mr. Erickson also contributes articles to a variety of publications, including The National Catholic Weekly. He has been a guest opinion writer for both the Portland Tribune and the Statesman Journal. He resides in Salem, Oregon.
THE BLOOD CRIES OUT
By Karl Bjorn Erickson
Published by Light Switch Press, Kindle price $7.99
Purchase on the Amazon Kindle Store