James Newman's brutal novel tells the story of a down on his luck wrestler searching for his kidnapped granddaughter. The book starts off with a grotesque horror scene when big time wrestler Nick Bullman aka The Widowmaker is abducted by deranged fans and tortured. The most gruesome part is that Nick loses his face in the torture and is left with a hideous complexion. A cop even slips on the flesh making this scene especially disturbing before jumping ahead several months. Newman fills us in on the rough surgeries Nick had to experience to even operate again but it leaves him disfigured and ashamed of the face he has to show the world.
This book isn't all just violence and gore, there is a definite human element as Nick Bullman is knocked and sent plummeting from his celebrity pedestal after he beats up a wrestling president. At his lowest, Nick receives a call from his daughter Melissa. She's in dire need as her daughter has been kidnapped under mysterious circumstances. Feeling guilty for his absence for nearly all of Melissa's life, Nick vows to find his granddaughter Sophie no matter the cost. His first lead is Melissa's dead boyfriend Eddie who was murdered during Sophie's kidnapping. The deceased drug dealer associated with all sorts of ugly characters that Nick discovers as he investigates.
Nick never blames Melissa for Sophie's abduction and instead, takes responsibility for the missing girl as repayment for his past absence. Nick meets Melissa's neighbor, Leon, searching her house for any stashed drugs. He's a mess but a huge fan of the Widowmaker so he approaches meeting Nick with a fervor and assists in the mystery. Leon was one of my favorite characters in the novel, a mixture of humor and a sad depiction of the life to be lived in Midnight, North Carolina.
The plot grows more intricate interspersed with intimate scenes between Nick and his estranged daughter that add an emotional element to this brutal work of fiction. The villain doesn't show up until later and the book lags just a little the middle as Nick waits around for a further clue. when that shows up in his motel room, he follows the crumbs and news reports to an awful realization. The old billionaire, known as Daddy, has a collection that he hopes to grow and that includes famous memorabilia tying this back to Nick's career as a famous wrestler.
I would recommend this book to those who can handle gore but are looking for a decent noir mystery. There is certainly a strong sense of setting and interesting characters to push the plot along for what makes a not too long read. I definitely enjoyed the parts where Nick found breaks in the mystery and was able to demonstrate his great strength plus a certain knowledge about pain and taking hits to later achieve wins. There are plenty of twists and turns to make the final realizations ultimately satisfying. Looking forward to checking out more by James Newman.