Katrina Monroe and the Dark Side of Fiction
Katrina Monroe is an author, mother, and professional haterologist. Her favorite things to hate include socks that fall down, grape-flavored anything, and the color 'salmon.' Grab her books here.
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I’ve been on a zombie kick lately.
BRAINEATER JONES begins with a warning—the book is not for the light hearted. Set in the 1930s, the novel embodies all that the era was: back-door boozing, gangsters, and prejudice of the highest degree. The world is on the verge of war, abroad and at home. Kozeniewski uses real, historical turmoil to create a backdrop worthy of a zombie novel.
Ganesh City is like Daredevil’s Hell’s Kitchen for the ex-living with Bad Guys lurking around every corner and an underground ring of not-so-secret up and ups running the show. The walking dead aren’t the start of an apocalypse—more a minority to be swept under the rug. Kozeniewski makes his own rules and sticks to them, making the novel hard not to fall into.
In the beginning, the MC is nameless. Faceless. A blank slate. This, in my opinion, was a brave move on the author’s part. For a novel to work, the reader needs someone to root for. But thanks to a voice that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go, we no longer care about his identity; we just want to see him kick some ass.
Braineater Jones, as the MC comes to be known, is part walking dead, part intellectual, part fast-talking action man. He reminds me of author Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt—an after-lifer with more questions than are particularly good for his health. And like Joe, Braineater doesn’t seem to care. At first, he sets his mind to one thing: finding out who killed him, and making sure he gives them proper thanks. But then he’s recruited as a kind of Detective to the Dead and each task puts him two steps forward and a couple of face stomps back toward his quest.
But Braineater isn’t all shoot first, ask questions later. He has friends—a severed head with a witty comment for every occasion, and a questionably trustworthy patron named Lazar who keeps Braineater neck-deep in mind-clearing booze—and a softer side. Given the chance to use and abuse a room of pick-n-mix hookers, he’s more interested in helping a dead woman find a locket with her husband’s photo inside. More subtly, his soft, chewy center is revealed with each declaration of, “What are they gonna do? Kill me?” Thought he might already be technically dead, his heart is very much alive. At various points, Jones is pessimistic about his own past; the pursuit takes a backseat to the plights of his new peers.
While BRAINEATER JONES is a combo of mystery and noir, there’s a good chunk of comedy thrown in for good measure. Romps through Little Haiti, The Mat, and more than one run-in with a pickled fetus (I warned you) give just the right amount of levity to balance the gore.
Told in journal entries that span a month, the narrative gets a little wordy in places—a byproduct of deep Point-of-View. And while it’s clear the author did his research on 1930s slang, it can be a little distracting where modern vernacular would’ve been the better choice.
That, however, is BRAINEATER JONES’ only drawback.
With a cast of characters spanning from the frightening to the hilarious, this zombie novel is the antidote to your typical moan-and-drag narrative.