When Zoe has to go out in a snowstorm to find her brother Jonah and their two dogs, she not only finds them but also a character called ‘Stan the Man’, who admits to killing their elderly neighbours Bert and Betty, but says that he also knew their father, who had died in a caving accident the previous year. He then tries to attack Zoe and her brother. So far this sounds like a crime thriller but then something weird happens; the lake starts to glow and a strange man appears and saves them from their attacker. He has no name but Zoe decides to call him ‘X’. We now find ourselves in two parallel worlds, or rather this world and the Lowlands (otherwise known as Hell) and X is a bounty hunter who is charged with taking wicked souls to face punishment. The story that follows has Zoe trying to come to terms with her father’s death as well as developing an attraction for X.
This is an original and quite weird story which takes some time to get in to. Whilst it has strong themes about family there are also moral and philosophical thoughts about who has the right to punish the wrongdoer. One of the characters says ‘these souls we take have given up all claims on humanity. They are garbage and we are dustmen’, which is a chilling concept. This would appear to the first of at least two books in the sequence, so it will be fascinating to see how the plot works out. Will X find out his background and will Zoe come to terms with the truth about her father; both questions that have been left hanging in the balance. This is worth the effort of reading and will no doubt gain many fans.