HELLBENDER by Jason Jack Miller
“It’s Johnny Cash with a fistful of copperheads singing the devil right back to hell.”
HELLBENDER, sophomore novel by Jason Jack Miller, is as much a sensory experience as his first in the Murder Ballads and Whiskey Series, THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK. Instead of Morgantown, HELLBENDER is set in the mountains of West Virginia, and with Miller’s descriptive skill, I got to experience the flora and fauna of the Appalachians: the sights, sounds, and smells of a place I’ve never been but now felt like I was there.
The Collinses have been feuding with the Lewises for years. And their animosity comes to a head when Henry Collins buries his little sister in the cold, hard ground. Janie is a victim of the Lewises’ malicious spellcraft. Teaming up with love interest Alex, Henry learns she’s adept at the old hills magic that women in both families practice—for good and for evil.
Besides the magic and intriguing family characterization, Miller loads on the action like a railroad car full of coal, stoking the engine toward a violent destination.
I dig Miller’s turns of phrase, his depiction of local color and customs, his description of the rural milieu, and his demonstration of forces supernatural. If you believe in magic—or want to—you owe it to yourself to read HELLBENDER. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.