A Book Spy Review: ‘Blood Standard’ by Laird Barron

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Blood StandardIsaiah Coleridge abruptly quits his career as an enforcer for an offshoot of the Alaskan mob, throwing his whole life into chaos.

Tuning up a man who owes money is one thing, but illegally killing walruses is another. That happens to be where Isaiah draws the moral line, too, as the tough-guy henchman refuses his orders and throat-punches his superior. He’s eventually captured, but before his old co-workers can kill him, Isaiah escapes and goes on the run. 

After fleeing Alaska, Isaiah finds his way to New York’s Hudson Valley, where he becomes a farmhand at a remote horse farm. His goal is to lay low and stay off the grid as much as possible, avoiding anything that might bring any attention to him — especially while his former employer is actively searching for him. Veteran crime readers will recognize the formula immediately. . . a reformed criminal trying to live a quiet life, when there’s absolutely no way that’s going to happen. 

For Isaiah, it’s a missing girl that throws off his plans to live a quiet life. More specifically, the granddaughter of the man he works for on the farm. Just as killing walruses to harvest ivory didn’t sit right with Isaiah, neither does the girl’s disappearance, and he ultimately decides to help try and track the girl down in an effort to save her. 

Compromising his low profile, Isaiah sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding the girl, which puts him on a collision course with a deep cast of unsavory characters, including an inexperienced FBI agent, a Native American gang, and dirty cops, all while still trying to stay one step ahead of his former mob boss. 

To save an innocent girl, Isaiah Coleridge will have to risk his own life in this exciting first book in a new series from Laird Barron, a veteran author known for penning horror stories. 

Overall, one’s ability to enjoy this crime thriller will come down to whether or not the reader connects with Isaiah, Barron’s protagonist. The writing itself is very solid, and the plot moves at a nice pace with plenty of surprises planted along the way to keep readers off-balance and guessing.  So, while the execution is nicely done, whether or not this becomes a successful series readers will latch onto will almost certainly come down to readers’ perception of Isaiah. 

The idea of a character with a checkered or violent past suddenly turning good is far from original. In recent years, Gregg Hurwitz (Orphan X, etc.), Steve Hamilton (The Second Life of Nick Mason, etc.) and other authors have had great success with this formulaic method. Finding a unique set of circumstances for the sudden career shift is just as important as finding ways to make the character stand out. While Hurwitz and Hamilton have found slightly more creative ways to achieve these means, Barron’s route for Isaiah is more vanilla. That said, Isaiah does have some unique qualities. He’s very smart, college-educated, and enjoys reading thought-provoking books. He’s compassionate, and he does give off the sense that he wants to do the right thing. 

I personally like the character and find Laird Barron’s hard-boiled approach in crafting his first crime thriller impressive. . . it’ll be interesting to see how he builds on things moving forward. 

Book Details

Author: Laird Barron
Series: Isaiah Coleridge #1
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735212872
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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One comment

  1. I’ll wait till Mr.Barron resumes what he does best: ultra-classy weird cosmic horror. The boring and predictable shenanigans of lowly humans interest me not,

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