Conrad Navarro is a trained fighter for the Pageant, a series of brutal events staged in secret for an elite group of rich creeps. Conrad is also searching for his sister, Imogene, who disappeared during her own search for the mysterious, and nefarious, Dr. Drake, whose unorthodox scientific experiments are believed by both siblings to have caused the death of their brother when they were children. The book is set in the weird version of a noir underground. Power plays pull Conrad back and forth between warring factions, and the characters spend most of their time entrenched within corruptive practices of one type or another. The weird infringes throughout, whether it is the odd set of physical attributes that Conrad seems to have been born with, or, in a more overt appearance, an otherworldly erotic close encounter with something in the other room.
Barron’s writing is sparse and minimalist when needed, both capturing the brutal feel of this character and his world, and then expanding just enough when needed to bring in a dark beauty for the descriptions. This work has some extremely beautiful dark prose that hits hard whether it describes a nightmarish landscape just the other side of this dimension
The moon shrieked below the threshold of human perception, reverberated in vast stygian chambers of rock and bone.
or the dream land someone like Conrad visits in his sleep
This bestial presence hunched until its crown of antlers scraped rock, and it chuckled and growled and reached for him, clutched him and drew him into the light.
or the beginning of one of the many, bloody and gruesome fights
The slow waltz in Hell began without music.
This book unfolds almost like a classic detective story, with Conrad continuing to search for his sister while being continually sidetracked by the competing factions in his world. However, his search for her, for answers, and for the man that may have ruined his life comes to a much more dramatic conclusion, as dark unimaginable forces begin to come into play, and Conrad himself begins to change.
If for some reason you have not yet read any of Barron’s work, you absolutely should stop whatever you are doing right now and go find some.