Friday, February 28, 2020

Book Review: 'FOUR (The Highwayman Series Book 2)' by MJ Preston

FOUR by MJ Preston

‘Nowhere is completely safe’ 

Canadian author M.J. Preston is rapidly becoming recognized as one the more impressive writers of horror fiction. His novels to date: THE EQUINOX, ACADIA EVENT, and The Highwayman Series – Book 1 HIGHWAYMAN, and now Book 2, FOUR. In addition to his novels, Preston has been a contributor to short story anthologies, collections that focus on dark themes.

Taking up where HIGHWAYMAN left off in 2007, Preston informs us in the Prologue that the crimes within this volume occur between 19 September and 17 November. As this is a continuation of the series, some readers would ask if reading Book 1 is necessary for reading Book 2: the answer being No, as Preston fills the reader in on the earlier atrocities of serial killer Lance Belanger – or YES, in that the impact of Book 1 is so profound that knowing the details heightens the experience of FOUR! 

A taste of the fine writing skills that make this intriguing novel/series ring is in a Quantico, VA 9 September 2007 note, sharing the depth of characterization and reflection of the series –‘September would end with SAC Hugh Bailey taking leave of his duties, and Maxwell being promoted to Special Agent in Charge, making him the overseer of the Highwayman case. For Maxwell, the promotion was bittersweet. While he’d known that this day would come, he’d done everything he could to sabotage it. Deputy Julian Carswell had been both his savior and saboteur. No longer would he be in the field chasing the bad guys but sequestered to an office, Carswell’s spin on it was that he was moving off the battlefield and into the war room. It didn’t feel like a war room, it felt like a cage.’

Condensing this hefty book is a challenge Preston meets well: ’Having abstained from killing for almost a year, the Highwayman is coming unglued. Unsure if the FBI is watching, Lance Belanger spends his days and nights in a paranoid malaise, longing to kill again. Meanwhile, in Bucharest, Romania, an Interpol raid leads to clues and a witness who can identify the Highwayman. Armed with new evidence, newly promoted SAC FBI Agent, Dave Maxwell heads for Bucharest, as his team of investigators redeploys their investigation on their original suspect, Lance Belanger. It would appear, the net is closing. But the Highwayman has other ideas. Just after dusk, outside of Pittsburgh, four strangers exit a service van and perpetrate the mass murder of four families in their suburban homes. It doesn’t take long for the FBI to connect the killings to Highwayman, and when they raid Belanger’s properties, they are left a parting gift. Another murder and a message for Maxwell from the Highwayman himself. Come and find me! The killing ramps up, Maxwell leads a posse of investigators across two states, north to Canada to try and thwart the Highwayman in his endgame, that involves kidnapping, mass murder, and betrayal. The predator is now the prey. But can they stop him before he disappears for good?’

The horrors persist and the level of reader involvement is assured. This is another exceptionally fine novel by a master story weaver. Few other authors can compete with his skill set! Highly recommended (and yes, do read Book 1 first…)

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.