There’s a reason why this hardboiled gumshoe detective wears his hat brim low and his coat collar high: he’s got more to hide than most pulp fiction antiheroes. Vitus Adamson isn’t just a three-time loser, an ex-soldier, an ex-husband and an ex-father who investigates the small-change domestic trivia which the police barely even consider crime. The rank miasma which hangs around him isn’t the usual mix of booze and fags and failure. His shuffling gait and unsteady handshake aren’t down to depression or PTSD.
Nope. He’s got bigger problems than that.
Or no problems at all, seeing as how he’s a flesh-eating zombie – one who keeps his base, drooling instinct firmly medicated in order to carry on the semblance of a normal life, right alongside everyday society.
This is a nifty set-up, one which initially blends pulp fiction with semi-credible science to explain how Vitus came to be shedding body parts. It’s written snappy; self-aware, full of sassy one-liners and smart asides with a tip of the hat to the usual zombie apocalypse tropes (‘Say, what IS Mila Jovovich like to work with?’). Then as he starts to search for a missing teenager, the narrative takes a step sideways, leaving behind the referential post-ironic comments and cranking up the suggestions of Unspeakable Awfulness in dark places.
The author plays with the reader’s perception of an increasingly weird situation. You’re never sure if this is going to gestate into a full-on horror epic of eternal evil, grinding teeth and splintered bone, or transform into a spiky expose of the human menace of the military-industrial complex… or just settle for being a story of personal redemption. It veers between pulp hack-n-slash horror and earnest debates on the nature of identity and the disintegration of the self; a mix of B-movie monsters and dime-store psychology. Ambitious, and tricky to pull off.
I hugely enjoyed the notion of the zombie PI and his unique situation. I wasn’t sure that the more extreme elements of the storyline sat comfortably alongside the real-world backdrop. The narrative and tongue-in-cheek dialogue, subtle and savage in the opening chapters, kinda slithered into platitudes in the latter part. Similarly, a steamily raunchy scene involving a plastic sheet and consenting partners, which made zombie sex seem a real possibility, was later replaced by doe-eyed sentimentality. And at the end, the escalating pseudo-science and collapsing physical condition / capabilities of the decaying protagonist rattled my ability to suspend disbelief.
So ‘Bring Me Flesh’ grabbed me at the get-go but my attention flagged somewhat by the end. I’d probably have enjoyed a less involved investigation, one without so much personal baggage. That said, it’s is easily the most accomplished zombie noir I’ve ever read…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell by Martin Rose is available at Amazon