Friday, November 18, 2011
The Chloe Files #1: Ashes to Ashes by Howard Hopkins
The character of Chloe Everson grew out of another one of Howard Hopkins' novels, Grim, where Arlo Grim battles a coven of witches trying to resurrect a demon in New Salem, Maine. Hopkins liked the character so much he decided to give Chloe here own series of books, of which Ashes to Ashes is the first. There is one other Chloe Files book and a third one is rumored to be on the way.
Chloe is a 5'6" 30ish former stripper who hunts down demonic creatures in New Salem. She and her fiance Arly, a detective in the New Salem police force, are considered "special" in that they can see creatures which normal humans cannot. Chloe lost her parents at a tender young age and was soon separated from her identical twin sister when they went to foster homes. Chloe would go on to an exotic dancer career hitting the circuit until she ended up in New Salem.
Chloe doesn't come across as the brightest light bulb in the pack, but she has a good heart. Which, ironically, makes her more realistic than all the other barroom dancers you encounter in action literature. And she has a good way of sizing up her opponents. She refers to one of her opponents in the book as "Ms. Pixie Sticks" and the name hangs on.
The only real problem with the book is Chloe's constant references to events which happened in the novel Grim. She's perpetually bringing up the coven of witches she and Arly defeated. This might make the reader interested in buying another book, but I found it irritating.
Ashes to Ashes opens with Chloe trying to find out what happened to her fiance Arly. Next, she'd visited on a dark and stormy night by a monkey which delivers her a locket. It had been given to Chloe years ago by her dead parents. But the creep factor really pumps when she has a vision of diseased children singing the "Ring around the Roses" nursery rhyme. She also begins seeing her vanished sister Patricia on TV. Is someone trying to warn Chloe about another demon working its way into the real world?
There's plenty of weird supernatural creatures to go around. A priest who seems to know more than he should. A librarian who may be working for the demons. And she begins to have visions of Arly chained to a wall begging for help.
The final battle scene was the pay-off for the book. After nearly 100 pages of back story, the plot began moving to a page-turner conclusion. It's clear that Hopkins is a shudder pulp fan. The final scenes wouldn't be out of place in a Doctor Death novel. I just wish the book had ramped it up earlier.
Chloe files #1 is a good beginning for a series. It will be interesting to see where Hopkins takes it.