(Disclosure Notice: I paid for this book myself, but I have received other audio books from Crossroad Press at no charge for review purposes.)
The Holy Terror is a hard book. It depicts the hard lives those trapped in the rolling prisons known as wheelchair being stalked and killed by a serial killer who believes he is following the will of his dead “father” and helping his victims enter Heaven. It depicts those stricken by disease or injury or metal illness or all three trying to make their way in late 80’s Chicago. It depicts people heroic and horrible in an era that is in our past, but that we haven’t really progressed beyond in many ways.
The base story of The Holy Terror revolves around Frank Haid. Frank Haid, dubbed the Pain Killer by the press, kills crippled men and women living in downtown Chicago. He believes he is commanded to do so by his dead “father”. He kills through a supernatural method of unknown origin that actually draws his victims bodies into his own. Frank is pitted against the residents of the Marclinn, a residence hotel for the handicapped, who have lost many of there number to Frank’s killing spree. These men and women are led by The American Dream, Evan Shustak, a self-styled superhero suffering from both mental and physical illness. The American Dream, with the help of his friends, has sworn to bring the Pain Killer to justice, and hunts for him on the unforgiving streets of Chicago.
As I said above, The Holy Terror, is a hard book. It is gritty and bleak. I felt sympathy for all of the characters, including the villain, in one way or another even though many of them were repulsive as well. Seeing the character’s day to day struggle to live even the semblance of a normal life stirred me emotionally and nearly brought me to tears at times. Yet at other times I laughed out loud (earning me strange looks at the gym a couple of times) or chuckled silently to myself at their antics. Yet the end of the story left me unsatisfied and vaguely depressed.
This book brought into conflict my compassion for those who are suffering and my horror at seeing them hunted and killed. One moment, I am cheering on The Pain Killer, the next I am praying for his capture. Sallee is masterful in handling that juxtaposition.
Sallee’s descriptive prose (and attention to detail concerning the era and location The Holy Terror is set in) and Kafer’s “just the facts” style narration worked to bring The Holy Terror to life for me in a way few audio books have. I was there on the streets and in the subways with The American Dream. I was in the back alleys with Frank Haid. I was there at the pool table in the Marclinn. I was there freezing on the bridge by the empty wheelchair.
And I applaud Jeffery Kafer for making all the Polish terms sound like Polish and the Spanish like Spanish. I don’t know if they were all pronounced properly, but they sounded great to me.
The audio edition contains two introductions along with the unabridged story. One of the introductions was written and read by the author himself. Those introductions give some background on Wayne Allen Sallee, the author, and the story. I suspect based on them that there is a lot of Salle’s own life wrapped up in The Holy Terror.
All that being said, I give the audio for The Holy Terror five out of five snark bites, and the story itself four out of five snark bites. This give The Holy Terror an overall score of five out of five snark bites (the story might deserve more than four snark bites but something about the end still nags at the back of my mind), and I recommend it with these cautionary words, “this book is not for the faint of heart.”