Review: The River of Souls (Matthew Corbett 5)

The River of SoulsBy Robert McCammon

Subterranean Press, out now

Visiting the Carolina settlement of Charles Town, problem-solver Matthew becomes caught up in the hunt for a suspected murderer who has fled up the Solstice River – aka the River of Souls…

This may be – by some distance – the shortest Matthew Corbett novel to date, but it is also the leanest, and demonstrates McCammon’s story-telling powers at their best. There’s no fat on this – we are given the descriptions we need of the people and places, rather than a lot of the background that we’ve been provided with in previous novels – and once you pick it up, you won’t want to stop until you’ve reached the end of Matthew’s sojourn.

The River of Souls messes with the heads of the people who travel up it, and McCammon creates a group of highly believable characters, drawn to the hunt for three slaves for their own motives, who all are put through incredible experiences ranging from quicksand-like areas to man-eating alligators and barbaric natives. The latter feature in a sequence which ranks up there with the most horrific that McCammon has created (and there’s some competition for that honour!) with a proto-hockey match that constantly requires a fresh supply of balls…

The early part of the story introduces us to Magnus Muldoon, who becomes a key ally for Matthew – and someone whom I hope McCammon will consider writing a separate story about at some point – as well as the slave owners and their masters. Once the hunt upriver has begun, we also meet Quinn Tate, a young woman who believes Matthew is the reincarnation of her husband, who also becomes someone the young problem solver needs to rely on – perhaps overly. In the previous book, Matthew was advised to strip away some of the items he no longer needs, and that process occurs for a number of the characters in this book.

In the review of The Providence Rider I commented on the debt owed to some of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, and the homage continues at the conclusion of this story with a late-era 007 ending mirrored two and a half centuries earlier. It kickstarts the series in a new direction – and I for one, am eager to see how Matthew copes with the new environment towards which he’s heading.

Verdict: Grim, grisly, captivating and extremely hard to put down. 9/10

Paul Simpson

<<< Click here to read our review of book 3: Mister Slaughter

<<< Click here to read our review of book 4: The Providence Rider

<<< Click here to read our interview with Robert R. McCammon, carried out shortly after The River of Souls was delivered.

Click here to order The River of Souls from Amazon.co.uk

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