Equal parts Western, ghost story, and crime thriller, Comanche should have been a two-barrel explosion of genre-bending fun. Instead, it was a mediocre procedural with repetitive themes and, annoyingly, no quotation marks. Author Brett Riley devised a unique plot and built around it a world of lore. He also succeeded at mixing in deep, realistic character development. Unfortunately, this all combines into a weak gumbo screaming for spice.

Comanche tells the tale of the Piney Woods Kid, a ghost seeking vengeance for his brutal death in 1887. With ghostly, and fatal, ammunition that reads like a device gleaned from a Marvel comic, the Kid sets out to kill the modern-day descendants of those who done him wrong. Enter Raymond and LeBlanc, two PIs from New Orleans with familial ties to Comanche, Texas. Their quest is for two Grails: stop the killings, and find a Texas equivalent for their beloved crawdad po’boys.

Those little details, like throwing a New Orleans duo deep into the heart of Texas, is the shining savior of this read. Riley builds believable, enjoyable characters complete with the burden of dreams and a mess of flaws. Many of those flaws are endlessly repeated over and over like an Emmitt Smith touchdown run against the Cardinals. The daily grind of the investigation does not properly translate into compelling reading. Too many pauses. Too many personal interactions. Not enough gris gris.

Riley sets up the situation but resigns to playing on the outskirts of a genre read, never getting dirty from the soil by totally jumping on in. Comanche should have been a daring read. And scary. And fun. Rather, this is as safe as an episode of CSI: Des Moines.   

Comanche book review

Heaps of jambalaya to Netgalley and Imbrifex Books for the advance readers copy.

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