Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merciless Pact by R. Thomas Brown

I've been spending the last couple of weeks trying to wrap my mind around Merciless Pact, a horror novella, written by R. Thomas Brown. It's a creepy little story about an evil that lurks in a small town in Texas invading unsuspecting souls,  usually at the discretion of someone that they are close to; someone that's supposed to care about them.

The story starts with Greg being awakened in the middle of the night after his friend has broken into his home. And, well, his friend pins him down and pukes on him. I know! Gross, right? He just pukes on him, apologizes and leaves. No explanation... I mean, they meet up again a little later in the story, but nothing is really discussed, and by then, Greg knows that he's been possessed by an evil power that can't be controlled; an evil that is always growing stronger. It's an evil that he doesn't really want, but contains just enough power that he's not willing to give it all away. And, worse, it's an evil that is wanted by something even more evil. 

And that's when things get interesting.

Not willing to give up this power entirely, Greg strikes a bargain with the spirits without all the details to the bargain. Without all the details... I mean, really, who does that? The devil is always in the details, Greg. Always! Then, of course, after the deal for power and immortality are in place, Greg learns that in order to control his dark desires he must feed the hunger. And feeding the hunger means feasting on the blood of his victims.  He tries this for a short time, but goes into hiding and tries desperately to rid the evil by taking his own life and giving the evil to another in the same manner that he received it.  It's only after his failed attempts to end his life and give the evil away that he learns that the evil within him can only be removed by giving it to someone he actually cares about... his desire for power coming at a terrible price for a friend when he decides the power is no longer worth keeping.

So why am I having a hard time wrapping my head around this novella?  Probably because I was under the impression that Greg didn't want to give the evil to the one seeking it because he knew, or sensed, like I did, that the entity that wanted his power so desperately was more evil than the evil that possessed him. But, no, that wasn't it.   He just wanted the power.  He liked the control.   I struggled with the story because  Greg wasn't making bargains to be the better person or a savior for others like I thought he was. And I struggled with the story because it made me see how easily we can be influenced by power; and how easy it is for us to ignore the details; and how even easier it is to hurt another to gain control.

I found Merciless Pact to be a powerful story of sacrifice.  A sacrifice of our inherent goodness for a little bit of power, and a sacrifice of one man's soul once that power becomes too much to control.  It is an endless cycle of doom, that, regardless of the sacrifices made,  has no happy ending in sight.

Which makes me wonder... When will someone write me a hard-boiled crime or horror novel with a happy ending? There has to be someone out there willing to accommodate my happy ending needs, right? Right???

R. Thomas Brown has several short stories available in e-book format and I've taken the time to read all of them. I can honestly say that they are all worthy of your time.

R Thomas Brown writes and reviews crime and horror fiction. His stories have appeared at Shotgun Honey, A Twist of Noir and The Flash Fiction Offensive. His reviews appear at Spinetingler and Crime Fiction Lover. His debut novel, Hill Country will be published by Snubnose Press in 2012. You can find him at
Merciless Pact is available on Kindle for $2.99
Old Man Coyote is available on Kindle for $0.99
Mayhem: A Collection of Short Stories is available on Kindle for $2.99


Chris Rhatigan said...

Splendid review. R Thomas Brown is quickly rising in the ranks of the crime fiction world.

Yeah, the happy endings. Doesn't really work out for the hard-boiled/noir folks. Maybe bittersweet endings or WTF? endings or now-I-hate-the-world endings.

Although I think in his short story collection, Mayhem, Ron proves that you don't have to crush the reader's soul with every crime fiction story.

Ben said...

Very good review Sabrina. It's in my reading queue! Can't wait to read it.

ajhayes2 said...

Dammit, Ron, you're rapidly filling up what space I have left on my bookshelves. Keep on writin' I'll keep on readin'. Cool.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Good review, Sabrina. I'll have to try this one.