Much like Blood Standard, the first Isaiah Coleridge novel, is a love letter to hyperviolent pulp. Barron loves the genre and makes sure its most recognizable elements are present here, starting with an unforgettable protagonist ... But Barron departs from formula by enriching his noir with both horror and poetry. Black Mountain is a crime-horror hybrid that takes the most entertaining elements of both genres and mixes them into something new that pushes the boundaries of contemporary crime fiction ... There is brutish behavior, but the words describing it are beautiful, mercilessly obliterating the imagined line between genre and literary fiction on almost every page ... Blood Standard was Barron adapting to a new genre. Black Mountain is Barron making the genre his own while simultaneously pulling it in opposite directions: this is at once more elegant and bloodier than most contemporary crime fiction, more eloquent and vicious, smarter and more ruthless. This is crime fiction hurled headfirst into Lovecraftian darkness ... Black Mountain is an entertaining, blood-spattered, and unusually self-assured novel with a meticulously constructed plot that masterfully braids several narratives into a single story. Barron has created a violent world full of multilayered characters and packed with enough guns, booze, mobsters, femme fatales, and mysterious killers to satisfy the most demanding crime fiction fans. Then he made the plot feel intimate and bizarre. He brought in ghosts and insecurities as well as something strange hiding in a cave and a hypermasculine hit man with almost superhuman abilities who is also brilliant and has a heart of gold. The sum of those elements is a novel that feels fresh and exciting, with its own momentum and a unique style. I cannot wait to see what he does next.
Coleridge is a large, unbelievably strong, scarred man—a thug, yes, but a thinking-person’s thug—who may recover physically but still has to face his nights. Readers with a tolerance for violence will want to meet him.
Like a lyricist, Laird Barron excels at manipulating the tones and cadence of language. Like a Gothic novelist, the mood he creates is often bleak ... Coleridge is terrorized by a black wolf in dream sequences that are evocative of early Stephen King. But unlike Barron's first novel, most of the violent action occurs offstage.
... a thriller that gets uncomfortably close to pure evil and lets you breathe in the stench ... The ugliness of the human condition contrasts with the gorgeous Hudson Valley, and Coleridge’s country shack is a refuge from the people who so often cross his path. His office, though, is a noir gem straight out of Hammett or Chandler, right down to the smoky glass in the door, and he has run-ins with a showgirl cut from similar cloth. After a harrowing showdown as the chase concludes, there’s a scene so tender it nearly induced whiplash. For all the darkness in Black Mountain, it has a hero who burns bright.
Laird Barron, who made headlines for switching genre’s last year, is a fine writer. While there’s no question that some parts are over-written, heavy on literary buzz words and over-the-top descriptions, readers will likely accept his style and prose for what it is. Likewise, the story is meticulously plotted, with plenty of intrigue and suspense. However, now two books in, it can be hard to take Isaiah seriously as a protagionist in this genre. Like Jack Reacher, the character is almost too perfect. While Coleridge is frequently engaging in bar-like brawls and back alley street fights, rarely does the reader ever really, truly believe the hero is in any danger ... Instead of the hard-boiled, gruff character reader are used to seeing lead crime stories, Isaiah comes off like a caricature of Reacher, without the true badassery that defines Child’s beloved nomad. That is perhaps Baron’s biggest flaw, in what is otherwise a solid, albeit very dark, crime thriller ... Laird Barron is still finding his footing in his new genre, but his latest is an enjoyable read for those who crave a gritty crime story with a few twists along the way.
... as nasty as a cornered pit viper—and its plot is about as sinuous ... Barron peppers the text with literary references and philosophical reflections that provide rich counterpoint to the violent bashing and bloodletting. Fans of hardboiled crime fiction and wiseguy vernacular will be well satisfied.
Seems, more than the debut, an obvious attempt to establish Coleridge as a strongman smartass in the Jack Reacher mold. The fight scenes are the written equivalent of action-movie choreography but without suspense, because the setup—Isaiah being constantly outnumbered—is so clearly a prelude for the no-sweat beat downs he doles out to the various thugs who get in his way. There's nary a memorable wisecrack in the entire book. What does stick in the mind are the sections that go out of their way to be writerly ... This is secondhand tough-guy stuff, memorable only in that it feels like you've read it all before.