Blood Standard is a beautifully written slow-moving hardboiled noir.
Isaiah Coleridge is an enforcer with the Chicago mob. Since he is Maori, he can never be truly part of the Family. When he falls out of favor, he is sent to Nome Alaska, the “Mafia penal colony”. After letting his feelings toward animal cruelty get the best of him, he is abruptly tossed out of the Life. On his own and hiding in a small upstate New York commune, he looks into the disappearance of the granddaughter of the owners.
Definitely a “down these mean streets a man must go” noir. Blood Standard has many great quotes. My favorite is
“whenever you think of gangs, think Romance of the Three Kingdoms. In the gangster universe, it’s all ancient Chinese court drama. Face, protocol, plausible deniability. This is what motivates wise guys and bangers. Pussy and money too.”
Realistically, that thought could have been expressed in substantially fewer words—but it wouldn’t have been half as memorable. The book reads as if each sentence was edited and re-edited until it was the perfect example of the author’s thoughts. Laird Barron has won the Bram Stoker award for horror and was nominated for a World Fantasy award. This is his first mystery/thriller. Thrillers are by their nature propulsive reads. Speed accelerates the feeling of danger. Blood Standard flows along more slowly, savoring its words and thoughts, and so losing the thriller pacing. This may be okay for readers used to reading horror, fantasy, or even literary fiction. It just felt off to me. I kept putting off reading it but finally finished a couple weeks after I started it.
While I can’t recommend it, I don’t want to say it’s bad—it’s just different and is sure to appeal to some readers. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Dutton, and NetGalley for an advance copy.