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Killing Moon
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Killing Moon

3.7 14
by Chuck Hogan

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Donald Maddox has returned to his sleepy Massachusetts hometown after fifteen years away. Although he has no law enforcement background, he finds a job as an auxiliary patrolman — on a local police force known to inspire more fear than trust. When the brutal murder of a local resident shatters the isolation of this forgotten place, triggering the arrival of


Donald Maddox has returned to his sleepy Massachusetts hometown after fifteen years away. Although he has no law enforcement background, he finds a job as an auxiliary patrolman — on a local police force known to inspire more fear than trust. When the brutal murder of a local resident shatters the isolation of this forgotten place, triggering the arrival of state police homicide detectives and a townwide manhunt, both the local cops and Maddox appear to have something to hide. As the tightly wound mystery that is Maddox's past begins to unravel, he becomes ensnared in a deadly conspiracy that ultimately threatens his life, as well as the lives of those around him.

A brilliantly plotted page-turner told with soul-deep characterization, crisp pacing, and unflinching realism, The Killing Moon proves Chuck Hogan as the unrivaled master of gritty suspense.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A smart, fast, compelling read, The Killing Moon gives a glimpse into the moral darkness of small-town America. You'll never want to leave the interstate again."

— Robert Ferrigno, author of Prayers for the Assassin

Publishers Weekly
Hogan's fourth novel (after the Hammett Award-winning Prince of Thieves) convincingly and movingly brings alive the dying Massachusetts community of Black Falls, which is plagued by a brain drain and by a corrupt, if small, police force. Don Maddox, the town's first (and only) college scholarship recipient, reneged on his obligation to return and work in the community, but 15 years later the prodigal son shows up for his mother's funeral. Oddly, Maddox becomes a part-time auxiliary policeman, clashing often with his superiors. The author soon reveals Maddox's hidden agenda, which is related to a lucrative drug ring and to a series of murders believed to have been committed by a registered sex offender. Strong characters and a memorable setting more than offset a windup with some predictable cliffhangers. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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A crack, a spray of flame, and he dropped onto his back on the side of the dirt road.

Nothing made sense at first. Not the trees overhead, nor the dark sky. The gasping that would not fill his lungs.

He heard hissing and felt a great pressure easing in the center of his chest, a sensation like deflating, like shrinking back into boyhood.

His fight-or-flight response failed him, blunted by years of false alarms. In the end, his brain was unable to differentiate between legitimate trauma and the fire drill of another cheap high.

The forest was fleeing him on all sides. Light came up in his face that he did not realize was a flashlight; a bright, beaming presence he thought might be divine.

Ten minutes earlier, he had been so fully alive. Pushing his way through the snagging branches of the Borderlands State Forest, jogging at times, giddy as he followed the full and smiling moon through the treetops. Intensely alive, every part of him, as he had not felt in weeks or even months.

He was two full days beyond sleep, yet his thoughts remained hyperfocused and particular, his mind blazing pure blue flame (no flickers of orange tonight, no air in the line). The thrill of risk, of danger, was his spark and his fuel.

He knew these haunted woods so well because it was he who had once haunted them.

Running the Borderlands had been, back in high school, a weekend dare for popular seniors with new driver's licenses: speeding their parents' cars along the ungated fire road that sliced through the state forest like a nasty scar. A midnight rite of passage, marquee entertainment in a town full of nothing-to-do, this tiny rural map-smudge in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, a fading and forsaken hamlet named Black Falls.

He had longed to participate, to be included as a passenger among a carload of screaming teenagers tearing through the forest. Stopping short on the access road, cutting the headlights, soaking in total blackness for an extra thrill. The stuff of roller coasters and horror movies.

But he was a strange young boy who had grown still stranger in adolescence. An outcast. One whom the others would never, repeat, never invite.

And indeed, he was different. More than any of them knew.

That was how he got the idea.

He still had loads of makeup left over from Halloween. He knew a thing or two about theatricality, about costumes, about the importance of performance. The mask and the reveal.

Word of the black-haired ghoul on the fire road blazed through school that week. Darting out of the trees with screaming eyes and a gaping black smile. The thrill seekers who returned the following weekend were disappointed by a no-show, until the creature's notoriety exploded full force the weekend after that, with a dramatic reappearance said to have fouled the undergarments of a varsity running back.

The next week, no apparition, only the discovery of a blood-soaked shirt dripping from a low tree branch. Two more weeks passed, kids racing their fears with no payoff, until the demonic ghoul appeared yet again, this time hurling a severed human head (a hollowed-out cantaloupe larded with a mixture of Karo syrup and red food coloring) into a passing windshield, where it exploded with gore.

The legend of Hell Road had been born.

He camped there on weekend nights when the Thing in the Woods materialized, and even some nights when It didn't: watching the headlights shoot through the Borderlands, his classmates alive to the danger, begging for some appalling shock to jolt them out of their tedious small-town existence. But they were merely flirting with death, whereas he was downright smitten.

Never once had he been afraid in these woods. He found only calm here. A haunted teenager sleeping in a haunted forest, he felt consoled.

That was how he navigated this night without flashlight or fear, following one of his old tree paths to the impending rendezvous on Hell Road. He had suffered all day in anticipation of this moment, opening himself to the forest now, to whatever this night would bring. The secret of the mystery man about to be exposed.

He had even worn his costume, updated through the years, including his hair. The night heat was oppressive, but he had no choice in the matter. It was not a disguise he wore, but a manifestation.

Not a mask, but a reveal.

Secrets were a thing he fed upon. A blood meal to him, a thing he craved. That sustained him.

But to Maddox he had made certain promises, some of which he might even keep. He was trying to be good. He actually was.

Illicit, not illegal, the midnight encounter of two like-minded souls of consensual age in the deep, dark forest. Adventurous, yes, and mysterious, and spectacularly dangerous — but perfectly legal.

He was hopeful, always. Of meeting a true soul mate. Of finding one person out there who understood him. His whims and eccentricities. He did believe, from their chats, that this mystery man in fact knew who he was, and evidently was okay with that. Which was a start. It would save him from getting beat up at least. Mystery Man even referred to their rendezvous point as "Hell Road," so he had to be a local.

Regardless, it had given him something to dream about. Something to look forward to. A reason to go tripping through the forest yet again.

Night, bring me what you will.

That was what he had been thinking as he emerged onto the hard dirt pack of the moonlit fire road. And what he thought now as the light flooded his eyes, and he expelled a final, gusty sigh, settling deeply and comfortably into the ground as though it were a child's soft mattress. He reverted to his best self, that innocent and unbroken young boy, exhausted at the end of another endless day of summer, surrendering to the moonlight and his secret dreams.

Copyright © 2007 by Multimedia Threat, Inc.



It was the blue lights that drew him.

Kane Ripsbaugh didn't go around seeking out beauty in life. He had no poetry in his heart, no language for pretty things. He owned a septic service company and ran the town highway department and was loyal to his difficult wife. But police blues pulsing against the dark night: he doubted there was ever a more beautiful sight than that.

Ripsbaugh stopped his truck and killed the engine. He left the headlights on and looked out at the road in a squinting way that had nothing to do with the strange scene his lamps revealed. This was the way he looked at the world.

The cop out there, the new hire, Maddox, had his revolver drawn. He glanced into the headlights, then backed off from the big deer dying in the road.

Ripsbaugh climbed out and down, his boots hitting the pavement. As the head of Black Falls' highway department, a hurt deer blocking the road was as much his business as anyone else's.

"You all right?" he asked Maddox, walking up on him slow.

"Yeah," said Maddox, looking anything but. "Fine."

Ripsbaugh watched the deer try to lift its head. Its hooves scraped at the pavement, blood glistening on its muzzle and ears. The stick casting a jagged shadow near its head was not a stick at all but a broken antler.

Some fifty yards down the road, Maddox's patrol car was pulled over onto the shoulder. The driver's side door was open.

Maddox started to talk. "I was driving past the falls. The spray washed over my car, so I hit the wipers. The road ahead was clear. All of a sudden, bam! Car jerks left — not a swerve like I was losing control, but like the car had been shoved. I realized I hadn't hit anything. Something hit me."

He talked it through, still trying to piece together what had happened, the memory of the incident and its impact as fresh to him as an echo.

"I slam on the brakes finally, stopping down there. Red smoke everywhere, but it was just road grit swirling up in my brake lights. I get out. I hear this sound like scraping, a sound I can't understand. The dust settled...and here it is."

Ripsbaugh looked into the trees. Edge Road was so named because it traced the treeline of the Borderlands State Forest. "How's your unit look?"

"Rear right passenger door's pushed in." He was starting to shake off the shock. "I never heard of that. A deer broadsiding a moving car?"

"Better that than getting up into your windshield."

Maddox nodded, realizing how close he had come to death. His turn to look into the trees. "Something must have spooked it."

Ripsbaugh looked him over, his blue jeans and hiking boots. The town couldn't afford regular uniforms anymore, so the six-man force wore white knit jerseys with police embroidered in blue over their hearts, and black "BFPD" ball caps, making them look more like security guards than sworn lawmen. Snapped to Maddox's belt were a chapped leather holster and a recycled badge. He held an old .38 in his hand.

The deer resumed its scratching, bucking its head against the asphalt. "Aw, Christ," Maddox said, knowing what he had to do.

Maddox had grown up in Black Falls but he was no farm boy. He'd left to go to college some fifteen years ago and never returned until his mother passed away. That was six months ago now. No one had expected him to stay more than a day or two beyond the funeral, but here he was, a part-time auxiliary patrolman, a rookie at age thirty-three. That was about as much as anybody knew about him.

"All right," Maddox said to the gun in his hand, and to the deer in the street.

Sometimes the mercy part of the kill shot is less for the suffering animal than for the man who can't stand to watch it suffer.

"In the ear," Ripsbaugh advised.

The animal flailed, sensing its impending execution, trying to get away. Maddox had to brace its strong neck with the tread of his hiking boot. He extended his gun arm with his palm open behind it.

The shot echoed.

The deer shuddered and lay still.

Maddox lurched back like a man losing his balance coming off the bottom rung of a ladder. He holstered his gun as though it were burning him, the piece still smoking at his hip. His hand wasn't shaking, but he rubbed it as though it were.

Ripsbaugh walked to the deer. Maddox's patrol car blues flashed deep within its dead round eye. "That was a good stance you had."

Maddox breathed hard and deep. "What's that?"

"Your stance. A good cop stance."

"Yeah?" he said. He wasn't quite present in the moment yet. "I guess."

"They teach you that here?"

Maddox shook his head like he didn't understand. "You a shooter?"

"Just going by what I see on TV."

"Must be we watch the same shows, then."

Ripsbaugh eyed him a little more closely now. "Must be."

He gave Maddox a minute to get used to the idea of grabbing the deer's hooves with his bare hands, then together they dragged the carcass off into the first row of trees, leaving a blood trail across the road.

"I'll come back in the morning with my town truck," said Ripsbaugh, "take him to the dump."

Maddox eyed Ripsbaugh's company rig. "You working late?"

"Fight with the wife. Came out to drive around, cool off."

Maddox nodded, about the only way to respond to that. He was wiping his hands on his jeans, coming back more fully into himself now. "Well," he said, "just another night in Black Falls."

Ripsbaugh watched the amateur cop head back to his patrol car, silhouetted in flashing blue. He returned to his own truck, checked the bundle rolled tightly in the tarp in the rear bed, and started for home.

Copyright © 2007 by Multimedia Threat, Inc.

Meet the Author

Chuck Hogan is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Devils in Exile and The Killing Moon. The Town was awarded the Hammett Prize for excellence in crime writing, and named one of the ten best novels of the year by Stephen King. He is also the co-author, with Guillermo del Toro, of the international bestseller The Strain. He lives with his family outside Boston.

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The Killing Moon 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This relentlessly suspenseful thriller is impossible to put down once the story has its hooks in you. The combination of an evocative setting, empathetic characters and a runaway pace makes for a novel that delivers a huge amount of entertainment. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy being kept on the edge of their seats from start to finish!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Don Maddox left Black Falls, Massachusetts on a community scholarship with the promise of returning to provide five years of service. He finally did come home fifteen years later to attend the funeral of his mother. Everyone assumed he would leave again as a town without an ATM cannot keep its young any longer. --- However, Don fools the townsfolk when he decides to stay, which leads to speculation. Though with no law enforcement experience joins the police force renowned for their corruption and abuse most locals conclude he must be dishonest too perhaps with drugs. However, his traffic patrol during the graveyard shift runs ugly when a murder occurs. Soon the Massachusetts State Police arrive to investigate the homicide and more at the same time the former police chief Pinty is trying to persuade them to look at his department and no one can figure out where the loose cannon Don fits, not even Tracey Mithers who is falling in love with him. --- The small town cast make for a strong gripping and sinister thriller as readers learn who the bad guys are and what Don¿s secret agenda is. The ending is expected from the moment the readers follow Don¿s first shift driving the blue lights, but no one will care as fans will be hooked from that onset to learn what is going on in Black Falls under THE KILLING MOON. --- Harriet Klausner
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KenCady More than 1 year ago
After enjoying Hogan's Devils In Exile, I took a read on The Killing Moon. It's not a bad story so much, but I just didn't like it. The characters did not appeal to me, and I did not like each chapter switching to another character's point of view.
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