Stuart R Brogan “Jackals” Review

Posted: May 9, 2017 in Reviews, Uncategorized
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BOOK INFO

Length: 356 Pages

Publisher: Midgard Books

Release Date: January 7, 2017

Review copy provided as part of Jackals Blog Tour by Confessions Publicity

Jackals is Stuart R Brogan’s debut novel and focuses on a shadowy group of killers known as Jackals who descend on the small town of Wells, an affluent city known for being a hotbed of Masonic activity. One of their own has been captured and they enter the station driven by bloodlust and a singular mission preached by their bosses: embrace the Primitive. The aftermath of their arrival finds an entire police force brutally murdered and chaos brewing in the city. The group is careful to leave no evidence at the crime scene with the exception of a mysterious sigil painted on the wall in blood.

Detective Inspector Lewis Class is a cop nearing the end of his career and to put it bluntly – his life is a mess. He’s totally alone with no family or any real close friends and things aren’t much better at work. He basically goes through the motions, knowing that he isn’t that great of a cop and looking forward to the day he doesn’t have to worry about the responsibility the only things he really enjoys are drinking and the occasional hit of cocaine. Class is the last person you would expect to tackle the brutal slayings of the officers in the police station, but that is what he is tasked to do. If you had to conjure up an image of him in your mind, he would be a polar opposite of what you would expect an action hero to be like. He realizes quickly that this case is above his head and he had little chance to solve it, his only real leads being the sigil and a suburban couple whose car was found not far from the massacre.

Earlier on readers are introduced to Jesse Reid and her husband Damien. They have been married for 16 years and are an average married couple. They love each other but each have their own faults and occasional rough patches. Damien loves his wife with everything he has, but he has jealousy issues and is easily intimidated. Jesse suffers from severe depression that seems to stem from a strained relationship with her father and other dark events buried in her past. While out celebrating their anniversary and an ordinary evening until they have a fateful meeting with a mysterious woman who will change the course of their lives forever and kickstarts a deadly cat and mouse game that serves as the driving factor of Jackals.

Brogan’s main strength in Jackals is that he does a good job of establishing tension and has a keen sense of pacing. Jackals starts off a little slow at first, but within a few pages it’s off to the races and Brogan injects a sense of urgency that permeates almost every page of Jackals. These days reading time seems harder to come by, so for me to be invested in a story, the author needs to grab me. That doesn’t mean it has to be nonstop action on every page, but whether it is through action-packed scenes, strong character development or just an intriguing premise, I need a reason to keep turning the page. Jackals definitely delivers on all of those areas. When I first started it, I would read in quick bursts whenever I had a spare minute before putting it down for the night. However, it took less than a few chapters before it became harder and harder to tear myself away from Brogan’s world full of ruthless killers and shadowy secret societies.

Brogan also does a good job of building up the mystery behind the Jackals, who work for a mysterious known only as “The Order”. While the name may not strike fear in the hearts of those who encounter it, they are a diabolical group. Jackals is an accurate name for the people they employ –  Bloodthirsty killers who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals of achieving the “Primitive”. These people are clearly deranged, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart or sloppy in their work. They are like ghosts in that they aren’t in the system and are able to blend into society fairly well. They also put a lot of planning into their attacks and account for every possible contingency, making them a pretty formidable group of antagonists.

I won’t get too much into the history of the group because that would ruin the suspense, but they are an interesting group that stands out a little bit from your typical cult that you see in most stories. They have a pretty warped view of the world that drives their goals and share some similarities with other groups that pop up frequently in the horror and thriller genres, but what is interesting and helps set them apart is the set of rules they follow. I also loved the way Brogan created a hierarchy within The Order which also adds originality to the novel. I wish we got more scenes showing the inner workings of the different groups, like how the Jackals are selected from the general public or what Internal Security has done to secure their deadly reputation. This isn’t a negative toward the novel because leaving some of these things a mystery makes The Order and their factions even more interesting, but just wishful thinking on my part.

Brogan’s excellent characterization doesn’t just apply to The Order (though that is what will initially grab the reader’s interest), but to the other characters as well.  My personal favorite is Jesse Reid, easily one of the strongest and most interesting characters in the novel. Despite all of the demons in her past and the self-doubt that appears early in the novel, she is incredibly resourceful and brave. When the Jackals deliver their ultimatum to her, it would have been easy for her to run and hide (I know I would have!), but she jumps into full on survival mode. She gathers supplies and starts formulating a plan that if I’m being honest, I would have been too paranoid and scared to think of if faced with a similar situation. I thought it was brilliant how readers get to see her evolve over the course of the novel and she is a badass in every sense of the word!

Jesse and Class make for an odd pairing, but they have a remarkable amount of chemistry. Despite coming from two different backgrounds, they open up to each other and share some of their darkest secrets with one another. There isn’t anything romantic there, they just forge an incredibly close bond while facing chaos and a group that would love nothing more than to see them both dead.

While there is a lot to enjoy about Jackals, there were a few parts of the story that didn’t quite work for me. Early on, when two detectives are interrogating a mysterious stranger described simply as “Gaunt Man”, Brogan reveals the man’s true intentions a little early, which kind of ruins the suspense cultivated at the beginning of that scene. That is a minor complaint though considering later scenes do a much better job of keeping things vague. Also there are a lot of times early on where the book is too heavy with the DC/PC stuff when talking about the different officers. A mention here and there may be important to establish the characters, but it kind of jumbles up some of the early scenes.

Jackals is a pulse-pounding thriller that is bursting with blood-soaked scenes, great characters, and plenty of plot twists that will keep you guessing all the way to the final page of the novel. I have never read Brogan’s work before, but Jackals is a very impressive debut and I will definitely be looking forward to his future work. If you enjoy thrillers or real-life horror, don’t let this gem slip under your radar!

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Stuart R Brogan’s author Facebook page

Purchase Jackals: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Jackals Synopsis

From the aftermath of a brutal massacre at a rural police station, two survivors leave behind a swathe of bodies and a cryptic sigil painted on the wall, in blood.

A disgraced Detective Inspector begrudgingly starts to investigate the crime scene but as the facts begin to emerge the trail appears to lead into the highest echelons of power, making the policeman himself the next target.

As the conspiracy spirals ever deeper and with no-one to trust, both prime suspect and policeman are forced into an unlikely alliance to prove, not only their innocence, but the existence of a force so ingrained into our society, it could rewrite the very fabric of human nature.

About Stuart R Brogan

 Stuart R Brogan is a former nightclub bouncer and unwaveringly proud Heathen who loves nothing more than expanding people’s minds with Pagan related Non-Fiction or blowing people’s brains out with fast paced, gut wrenching, thrilling horrors.

Harley lover, extreme metal drummer and avid movie nerd, Stuart has never followed the crowd but instead carved his own path and danced to his own tune. Since his early years, Stuart found escapism in both the written word and the silver screen. A huge fan of 80’s Action / Horror movies such as The Thing, Aliens, Predator & Die Hard and literary heroes such as Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, Richard Layman and Brian Lumley, Stuart endeavours to bring an unapologetic cinematic eye to his fiction in the hopes of rekindling his childhood sense of wonder, all whilst blowing through vast amounts of ammunition down his local shooting range.

Stuart currently resides in Glastonbury, UK with his long-suffering wife and man eating Shih-Poo dog “Poppy” where he co-owns a kick ass Viking / Asatru shop, fiercely named “Shield Maiden”.

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