1932: Fortune and celebrity are years behind Butch Cardinal. Once a world-class wrestler, Cardinal now serves as hired muscle for a second-rate Chicago mobster. While collecting a parcel from a gangland lowlife, Cardinal witnesses the man's murder. Though wounded, he escapes the killers and flees into the night carrying the package. In it is a necklace with a metal pendant. Bent and scratched, the thing looks like a piece of junk, but the trinket is the reason a man died. It's the reason a lot of people will die. Finding shelter with another shamed wrestler in New Orleans, Cardinal embarks on search for answers that will reveal a world of metallic charms and weapons, all forged with unimaginable powers. Alone and outgunned, Cardinal must stand against the Chicago mobs, a brilliant and insane hitman, the police, and a mysterious order intent on retrieving their relic.
"Thomas gleefully captures the hard-boiled setting in a propulsive story that reads like Frank Miller’s Sin City with a little slap and tickle here and there."--Kirkus Reviews
A finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror!
Stoker- and Lambda-winner Thomas (The German) creates a heady blend of gangster noir and supernatural horror. Butch Cardinal, washed-up wrestler turned gang enforcer, is caught between the wrath of Chicago's Italian mob and the Alchemi, a mysterious organization of powerful magicians. After being set up and framed for murder, he flees to New Orleans with a stolen magical relic. There he discovers mystical talents and finds unexpected love with another man. Butch's imaginatively realized world of gangsters, crooked cops, ruthless killers, and magic users is full of violence and cruelty, and is also intensely masculine; women are bit players at most. Thomas deftly manages a large cast of characters, though the number of narrative threads results in a hectic final act.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Simply Put: A Great Book!
Having read many of this talented author's earlier works, my expectations were very high for this latest novel. My expectations were exceeded.
Lee Thomas's displays in "Butcher's Road" why his writing is at a different level than your run-of-the mill author. Using beautiful prose reminiscent of early Anne Rice, mixing in the pacing of Ray Garton, adding a quirky creativity a la Clive Barker, and then stirring it all together with his own unique sensibilities, style, and insights, he produces a book that is likely to win many awards.
Rather than rehash the story line, which other reviewers have done effectively, I will focus on what makes this not only a well-crafted, intelligent work, but also one that's just plain old fun to read.
There is something for everyone in "Butcher's Road". If the author was a tailor, this would be a splendid coat-of-many-colors. There is great attention to detail in world building as Mr Thomas lays the groundwork, even the chapter titles are meaningful and at times foreboding.
This is a period peace (1930's era), with gangsters, hit men, a surprise romantic relationship, and paranormal elements (a secret society and artifacts with mystical qualities). The story is action packed with realistic, well-defined supporting characters. There aren't any "slow" parts.
The main character, Butch Cardinal is sympathetic but flawed, prone to violence, pragmatic, honest, and determined. He is mentally tough but vulnerable and is ultimately a person of great integrity who is largely misunderstood.
The only slight criticism I have is that at the end of "Butcher's Road", I still didn't have a firm grasp of exactly who Butch Cardinal was, what motivated him, and what would likely become of him. That said, maybe this was intentional since not fully understanding a character is somehow more satisfying and interesting than having absolute certainty.
"Always leave 'em wanting more" as the saying goes, and with this work, Lee Thomas has absolutely guaranteed that I will continue to do just that.