Last week I interviewed Lori Titus about her latest release, Lazarus — and today I present to you my (long overdue) review of her novella!
Many thanks to the author for the review copy.
Lazarus is one of those books that is hard to classify. Part zombie horror, part gun-slinging western, the novella narrates the goings-on in the quaint desert town of Lazarus, California, where the dead don’t stay that way.
Widow Luella Pembry arrives in Lazarus with a zombie-detecting device and a plan to stop the town from being overrun. She offers her help, for a price. But the town Sheriff and Mayer have buried secrets of their own, and don’t appreciate Luella digging around in their pasts. Will their secrets be revealed in time to stop the dead from rising?
“Luella arrived in town with one trunk and a suitcase.” So begins Lazarus and so it continues: quick, snappy, catchy. The writing’s simple and unadorned, the plot steps livelily, and the desert town makes for an evocative, spooky setting.
There’s something of the screenplay in this novella. The short scenes and tight dialogue unfolded, film-like, in my mind. The tireless scratching sound of bone against wood followed me to my bedroom, as I lay in the dark and did my best not to think of zombies.
And yet the story is not as frightening as I thought it would be. Creepy, yes. Macabre, definitely. But this is no traditional zombie tale: the focus of Lazarus is more on the town’s inhabitants and their history, rather than the more physical gruesomeness of the undead.
Lazarus also has elements of the paranormal, which I did not expect. Luella has an affinity for the dead, and indeed they are drawn towards her. There’s a character who reads minds, and another who can give life. And there is more than one kind of zombie, too: those raised by ‘natural’ causes, and those born of magic. The author has clearly put much thought into the supernatural elements, going so far as to suggest that zombies live in swamps to conceal their stench (an idea I love!).
As always, a couple things niggled. I found the scenes a little too short, the narrative jumpy, never long enough to let me properly sink into the character’s point of view. I am very much a fan of getting into a character’s head, but Lazarus focuses more on the town as a whole. On a similar note, I think Lazarus could have benefitted from being more fleshed-out—from being a longer story! I would have happily sunk into Lori Titus’ world a little longer.
Lazarus ends on a suggestive note, leaving you with questions. What will Lori Titus write next? Will we see Luella again? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to know more.
In sum, a zombie tale unlike any other. It has a hint of the west, an unfaithful wife, and rivalry between best friends. Worth a look!
This book is one of my 100+ Reading Challenge!