The Isaiah Coleridge Series REVIEW, by The Horror Hypothesis
”I was Oppenheimer’s dread in microcosm, a miniature atom bomb. A destroyer of small things. Not worlds, nothing so grand, but individual bodies, individual lives. In little more than a week I’d crossed purposes with mercenaries, gangsters, white supremacists, hillbilly moonshiners, gangbangers, and Feds. Blood had spilled. As ever, blood was the currency of my existence. Blood was the standard” -Laird Barron
Do you want to know how long it took for me to fall in love with Laird Barron’s protagonist, Isaiah Coleridge? 8 pages. When Coleridge throat chops the shit out of a Walrus slaughtering mafia shot caller, Vitale Night, even though he knows it’s going to land him in hot water, I knew that despite the genre change, Laird Barron had me hook, line, and sinker.
Along with other contemporary horror writers like Thomas Ligotti, Victor LaValle, and John Langan, Laird Barron is well known for his various contributions to the cosmic horror renaissance. Seriously, if you haven’t read THE IMAGO SEQUENCE, stop reading this review and check that collection out!
Barron’s recently published crime novels follow Isaiah Coleridge: a half maori, classical literature appreciating, animal-loving, alcohol powered heavy that is closer to a superhero or demigod than a human. Imagine Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as John Wick, mixed with Humphrey Bogart and Richard Roundtree, beating the hell out of gangsters, white supremacists, grifters, and any number of folks who stand in his way. In BLOOD STANDARD, he is tasked with finding a missing girl and in BLACK MOUNTAIN he attempts to solve a murder case that may be the work of a legendary hitman and serial killer.
It’s bloody, it’s brutal, it’s awesome.
Along with its truly likeable anti-hero, the most appealing aspect of this series is its impeccable style and witty dialogue. Barron takes established conventions from writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and runs with them. The novels certainly have all the features of a good hard-boiled, noir crime novel: a detective solving mysteries, a sprawling criminal underworld, loads of alcohol and seedy dives, femme fatales and red herrings – but Barron’s work here is truly original in so many ways. Additionally, the cast of characters that surround Coleridge are vivid, well fleshed out, and unique. He also finds ways of injecting some of his cosmic horror trademarks into the series.
There are currently two novels in the saga: BLOOD STANDARD (2018) and BLACK MOUNTAIN (2019). You could certainly read them in any order, but I highly recommend starting with BLOOD STANDARD as it sets up some important character dynamics and does a good job introducing the reader to the wildly entertaining mind of Coleridge. Honestly, I was really apprehensive when I found out that Barron was shifting genres, but now I just want to read whatever comes next in the series.
I found both books to be 5/5 star reads. This is a series I will frequently revisit and I highly recommend checking them out.
The Horror Hypothesis - Night Worms Bio
Donnie Hypothesis is an avid reader, writer, and collector of horror fiction. He runs the Bookstagram page, “The Horror Hypothesis,” which advocates for the Horror literature genre as a whole. He currently lives in Central Virginia where he spends most of his free time reading, making music, playing video games, and watching movies.