"Bartolo Aguilar squatted beside a rutted dirt road in the Anza-Borrego Desert, two hours east of San Diego, and savoured the emotional and spiritual insanity of the woman who was watching the dying girl spasming in the sand, gurgling and frothing, her bloodshot eyes rolled up in her head so that they looked like a pair of crimson moons."
The Black Song Inside by Carlyle Clark and Suki Michelle focuses on two recently engaged private investigators (Atticus and Rosemary) who find themselves "up to their necks in it" involved with the Tijuana drug cartel.
Set in San Diego, their story begins with Atticus' old flame asking for his help solving the execution style murder of her boyfriend. Unfortunately for our protagonists, this puts them in direct sight of some very dangerous people, all of whom will stop at nothing to get what they (or their very powerful bosses) want.
Meanwhile, both our leading roles have their own problems to deal with. Atticus had a traumatic childhood and grew up as an African-American dealing with a lot of bigotry, whilst Rosemary had a dysfunctional family, an aggressive, violent brother and a tour in Iraq that left her with PTSD and a missing right leg, as well as panic attacks when she gets behind the wheel.
Together, they must try to solve the murder, figure out who's after them and why, try to survive the entire Tijuana Crime Cartel (as well as various other threats) baying for their blood and keep their relationship together. In one corner we have a man known as "The Priest", who has founded his own religion and is the sole member of what he calls the Church of the Aloned. His only goal is to open the eyes of humanity to the farce that is civilisation in his eyes, break them down and make them rely on the only thing that matters- instinct. He has no mercy and cares for no one. The entire Bible of the Church of Aloned consists of a map he found as a child soldier in the jungles of Colombia, with the words "Beyond Here Be Monsters" scrawled on the edge, which he took to heart.
The big players in the cartel itself are Armando Villanueva, Lieutenant to the head of the cartel- Ferdinand Del Castillo- who himself runs the entire drug empire for Tijuana Cartel. Aside from these threats, we also have Rosemary's angry brother (who happens to have his own gang- Los Lobos Locos) gunning for Atticus' blood out of pure hate of the man.
Out of all the antagonists I found The Priest the most terrifying. Whereas the rest of them are doing it for money, power or hate, The Priest is simply doing it out of obsession. It's clear he's not completely on the rails, but how far off them is unclear. He has the same masochistic rituals that are reminiscent of the priest from the Da Vinci Code. He scrubs himself down with pumice and does intense exercises that he calls "worshipping". The character himself is very different from the Da Vinci Code priest though- apart from both being religious fanatics who seems to have a thing for S&M.
The story starts off slowly and begins to pick up pace, building more and more tension as we reach the end. There are many different plots going on at once, so some get sidelined a little at times, but they are all brought crashing together for the finale.
The ending itself is well done, full of seat-gripping tension and with an ambiguousness that leaves you not completely at ease.
A great thriller, murder-mystery novel for anyone who isn't turned away by violence, bad language or the gritty realism that comes from telling a story filled with drug rings, human trafficking and murder.
Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the authors through a giveaway. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.