A Sizzling Tour de Force:

                    Fire & Flesh by Evan Kingsbury



Reviewed by Lisa Mannetti

Spontaneous human combustion is one of those topics that horror fans are genuinely intrigued by; dictionary entries don't satisfy us any more than, say, episodes that treat the subject on a program like Unsolved Mysteries. Its allure runs deeper than that for those of us whose imaginations are -pardon the pun-sparked by the bizarre, the unusual, and the anomalous.

Evan Kingsbury not only delves into the subject in
Fire and Flesh , he handles it and his gruesome, fascinating tale brilliantly.

The novel opens in Calcutta--a hive of sights, sounds and intrigue. Kingsbury has the skill in this and all his settings to create a visual montage that reads like the equivalent of the most interesting slide show you've ever witnessedů.a travelogue that makes you realize-even if you never visited this place before-you are dying to go there. This ability holds true of all the odd terrain-both physical and mental-that he describes. This seminal scene grounds the rest of the book and he has that all-too-rare knack of being able to make his information and settings as vivid and interesting as his characters-in fact, these "outside" motifs function as "character" in Fire and Flesh.

Kingsbury (a.k.a Robert W. Walker, the best selling novelist of the
Instinctseries) weaves in a mythos about the ancient power of the Kundalini serpent and its ability to possess and consume humans-and he does it so that it flows seamlessly into the book and the reader never feels as if he's being fed information. The plot and pacing never sag.

From present-day Calcutta, the story moves to Miami, Florida where a record-breaking heat wave is searing the city and where most of the action takes place. His main characters, detective Eric Brannon and assistant medical Examiner, Angelica Hunter, are quickly drawn into the fray.. Kingsbury provides plenty of detail and graphics to describe what is happening to some of Miami's residents who are synchronistically spontaneously combusting:

Brannon returned to the crime scene to find Captain Ames with his head out a window, vomiting.

He and Angelica followed Dr. Katra, the Medical Examiner, into the apartment, each fighting with the straps of a filtered mask. The two of them were stopped immediately by the black outline of a human form against the stark white of the refrigerator door, arms raised as if fending off an attacker.

The ceiling above the fridge was also smoked and some of the gooey stuff dripped from there to the floor.

They saw the picture Katra had alluded to, painted in the stuff the little ME called human creosote: a soapy grease created of super-heated human body fat. At the center of the figure, smeared in greasy black were the letters H-A-R-I.

Dr. Katra then pointed out a handful of teeth, an ankle and foot-the largest remaining part of the victim--blackened by fire, all lying scattered at the foot of the fridge.

"What the hell is an h-a-r-i?" Brannon spelled it out. "Some kind of terrorist group I haven't heard about?"

"Hari," Katra read it as one word. "I don't know,' he lied.

Much of this well-researched book devolves on dualism, on opposites pitted against each other. It delves into evil and the various forms that plague us as humans and treats subjects as varied as the Kundalini myth and anti-matter machines.



Kingsbury, adept as a snake-charmer and the Kundalini serpents he writes about, creates a tale that is both highly readable and wonderfully metaphoric. Horror fans will not be disappointed at his leap into the world of the supernatural and the bizarre.




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