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Jonathan Maberry’s literary fingerprints are all over the place, and they are usually smeared in red. While he is primarily known for his work in the horror genre, it is difficult to know where to start when describing what he has written in other areas. Maberry has edited a series of anthologies devoted to the legendary television series “The X-Files.” He has penned horror and dark fantasy novels for young adults and a number of series in different genres, including mystery and suspense. He also is a well-known comic-book writer, having worked on titles such as Captain America, The Punisher and, my personal favorite, Marvel Zombies Return. If you like your literature dark, gritty and violent, then you’ve come to the right place.

This pretty much describes Maberry’s newly published novel, INK, which returns to the fictitious eastern Pennsylvania town of Pine Deep (the setting for his critically acclaimed trilogy). He begins foreshadowing the proposition that Pine Deep is not a terrific place practically from the first sentence, which is where we meet a troubled bounty hunter named Monk Addison, who is looking for a biker who has jumped bail. He has to contend with rain, blackbirds and graffiti. All of it would turn a lesser man away. As we come to learn, Monk is more than an ordinary man, though not in any supernatural sense.

"Maberry’s seemingly inexhaustible imagination uses a style --- short chapters, each of which presents an alternating point of view --- that lends itself to rapid reading..."

Monk is also following Patty Cakes, a woman with whom he is joined in friendship, tragedy and violence. Patty is a renowned tattoo artist who has moved from New York to Pine Deep in an effort to find an elusive peace, but it is obvious that peace is not to be had within the local environs of the small town. The trendy area of Pine Deep known as the Fringe hides a monster who walks unnoticed among the throngs, stealing memories from people who need them the most, particularly those for whom the memories of absent loved ones anchor their tenuous grip on reality.

Monk, Patty, a psychic and a confused school administrator find themselves forming an uneasy alliance with a pair of local law enforcement officers who really have no idea what they are dealing with but nonetheless have the courage to face the danger (whatever it is) head-on. However, their combined effort may not be enough, especially when their adversary appears to have the ability to marshal a superior and seemingly supernatural force against them.

In INK, Maberry’s seemingly inexhaustible imagination uses a style --- short chapters, each of which presents an alternating point of view --- that lends itself to rapid reading, particularly when his characters begin painting the walls with each other. I guarantee that readers will be unable to walk past a tattoo parlor or see someone who has sunk the ink without thinking of one or more passages from this frightening and memorable novel.

While INK has been described repeatedly as a stand-alone work, the primary characters are so striking that literary retirement will not suit them. I predict that Maberry’s output, which never sacrifices quality at the altar of quantity, will almost certainly find a way to bring back Monk and the inhabitants of Pine Deep --- those who survive to the end of the book, that is --- for another round. Or two.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 20, 2020

by Jonathan Maberry