I was bought this for Christmas because I was seen to be enjoying dystopian fiction and my surname was in the title. I must admit I was a bit dubious at first, as I realized the book was published by the author: Sound and Fury Press. Should this alter my judgement? The blurb, however, intrigued me: an authoritarian regime, incinerating bodies, rationing, a murder and a virus. What more could you ask for in a dystopian novel? Therefore I put my doubts aside and got round to reading it. And I must say I'm glad I did. I raced through the first chapters. It read like the best of thrillers, although it is genre unspecific. Thriller, horror, dystopia, crime, alternative history, science-fiction, take your pick! It is completely engrossing in its indefinable otherness.

The story centres on Lucille, a seventeen year old Patroller in an alternative 1920s American metropolis. With her experienced partner Hank, Lucille's job is to collect the dead bodies of those contaminated by a deadly virus, causing horrifying skeletal mutations. But on a routine pick-up Lucille and Hank stumble on a murder scene, with sinister connections to the Mayor. Is there a cover up? Is there corruption at the heart of the city's governance? Is there more to the virus than Lucille knows?

The premise reads like a typical crime set-up, but as a whodunit set in a well-realized dysfunctional alternative America. Truscott expertly balances the realization of her own dystopia with the pace and tension of a taut, atmospheric thriller. It whips like the very best modern crime novel but frames itself like a film noir: viral prohibition meets Fahrenheit 451. It is as if Truscott has spun an experiment on us using all the horrible, troubling troupes of our own times: recession, Ebola, corruption, class divide and political instability. It creates a unique nightmarish vision. And Truscott does this with aplomb. Her writing is specific and sensual. I especially admired the smells she describes: the bleach and gas and other chemicals. The virus stinks from the page. But you cannot turn away...

The ending was perhaps unexpected, at first a little strange. However, on discovering that this is Book 1 of a Lucille Harker series, I am very much interested to see where Truscott goes next. She has created a richly imagined and very different world and so I look eagerly to exploring more of it.

Come on! Bring on the Sound and Fury!

© 2020 by Chris Soul. 

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