“One of the most darkly intriguing books this reviewer has encountered in more than three decades of reading crime fiction . . . To call this a page-turner is to damn it with faint praise.”
"A lightning strike of a novel.”
Rocky Mountain News
“An utterly compelling tale of mystery and imagination.”
Parker's allies Louis and Angel confront a deadly vendetta rooted in Louis's past.
The Reapers are the elite of killers, shadow men who exist only to end the lives of others, and Louis, confidante of troubled private detective Charlie Parker, was once among their number. Now the sins of his past are about to be visited upon him, for someone is hunting Louis, targeting his home, his businesses, and his partner, Angel. The instrument of revenge is Bliss, a killer of killers, the most feared of assassins, and a man with a personal vendetta against Louis. But when Louis and Angel decide to strike back, they disappear, and their friends are forced to band together to find them. They are led by Parker, a killer himself, a reaper in waiting. The harvest is about to begin . . .
All things are an exchange for fire, and fire for all
things, as goods for gold and gold for goods.
—Heraclitus (c. 535-475 B.C.)
Sometimes, Louis dreams of the Burning Man. He comes to him when the night is at its deepest, when even the sounds of the city have faded, descending from symphonic crescendo to muted nocturne. Louis is not even sure if he is truly asleep when the Burning Man comes, because it seems to him that he wakes to the sound of his partner’s slow breathing in the bed beside him, a smell in his nostrils that is familiar yet alien: it is the stink of charred meats allowed to rot, of human fats sizzling in an open flame. If it is a dream, then it is a waking dream, one that occurs in the netherworld between consciousness and absence.
The Burning Man had a name once, but Louis can no longer utter it. His name is not enough to encompass his identity; it is too narrow, too restrictive for what he has become to Louis. He does not think of him as “Errol,” or “Mr. Rich,” or even “Mr. Errol,” which is how he had always addressed him when he was alive. He is now more than a name, much more.
Still, once he was Mr. Errol: all brawn and muscle, his skin the color of damp, fertile earth recently turned by the plow; gentle and patient for the most part, but with something simmering beneath his seemingly placid exterior, so that if you caught him unawares it was possible to glimpse it in his eyes before it slipped away, like some rare beast that has learned the importance of staying beyond the range of the hunters’ guns, of the white men in the white suits.
For the hunters were always white.
There was a fire burning in Errol Rich, a rage at the world and its ways. He tried to keep it under control, for he understood that, if it emerged unchecked, there was the danger that it would consume all in its path, himself included. Perhaps it was an anger that would not have been alien to many of his brothers and sisters at that time: he was a black man trapped in the rhythms and rituals of a white man’s world, in a town where he and those like him were not permitted to roam once dusk fell. Things were changing elsewhere, but not in this country, and not in this town. Change would come more slowly to this place. Maybe, in truth, it would never come at all, not entirely, but that would be for others to deal with, not Errol Rich. By the time that certain people started talking about rights without fear of reprisal, Errol Rich no longer existed, not in any form that those who once knew him could have recognized. His life had been extinguished years before, and in the moment of dying he was transformed. Errol Rich passed from this earth, and in his place came the Burning Man, as though the fire inside had finally found a way to bloom forth in bright red and yellow, exploding from within to devour his flesh and consume his former consciousness, so that what was once a hidden part of him became all that he was. Others might have held the torch to him, or sprayed the gasoline that soaked and blinded him in his final moments as he was hanged from a tree, but Errol Rich was already burning, even then, even as he asked them to spare him from the agonies that were to come. He had always burned, and in that way, at least, he defeated the men who took his life.
And from the moment that he died, the Burning Man stalked Louis’s dreams.