Righteous Blood (2002)

Righteous Blood is a sort of mini-collection, bundling two of Cliff Burns’s novellas into one package. While I thought the first one lacked a bit of narrative resolution in the end, I prefer it over the second story. Kept has a tight plot with a good resolution, but I thought Phil was the better realized main character. Both Maxine and Phil do nasty things, but in Phil’s case these naturally evolved out of the context of the story, while in Maxine’s case they are just established from the get go with a thin explanation.

Living with the Foleys

A homeless man, Phil, is living in the garage of the Foley family, something the Foley’s aren’t aware of. Through the venting systems, sounds travel easy there, Phil has intimate knowledge of the going ons of every family member. And so he is the only one who can see the slow unraveling of the Foley family. But Phil has taken a liking to them, and especially to his place in the garage, and isn’t going to let the family go kaput.

Living with the Foley’s has a truly original and weird set-up, presenting a completely normal situation from a truly strange viewpoint. And all that is just a playground to trace the life of a man who has withdrawn from his former life, only to realize that until you’re dead you’ll always hurting, always caring for others, even if you live at the bottom. But there’s good stuff too. What’s the meaning of life? That’s a hard one. Or not at all.

Kept

Maxine is the caretaker of a house where strange people dwell. Her job is to make the house secure and, well, take care of everything, from plumbing to dealing with outsiders. Maxine is also a women with a peculiar hobby. She picks up men who want to fuck her, takes them home, drugs them, straps them on a bed, and slowly tortures them to death for a nebulous movie project. But her last subject turns out to be as nasty as she is. After he has freed himself he begins to kill the inmates of the house, one after another.

Kept is a classical hunt-the-hunter action piece, a relentless story that always keeps the reader on the edge about what happens next, brimming with tension until its gory resolution.