The outbreak tore the US in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.
Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.
But in the wastelands of America, you never know who – or what – is watching you.
Henry Marco, former neurologist, is now a gun for hire in the wastelands of what used to be the western US (the Evacuated States). His business partner and former brother in law lives in the east, in the area deemed safe by the government, the New Republicans. Days are spent tracking lost relatives and giving them the peace that their family members desire, with the memory of his wife haunting his every step. Haunted, yes, that’s the best way to describe Henry Marco. Hardened by years of battling the undead, he begins to questions just what it is that keeps him going. Is it his “job?” Does killing the undead relatives of grieving survivors bring him peace and closure also, or does it just fuel the pattern that he’s been forging for years, alone and devastated by loss? Well, Marco’s lone wolf existence is about to be shaken up. Homeland Security has taken his brother in law hostage, using him as leverage in order to hire Marco to hunt the ultimate target: Roger Ballard, the scientist that may just have the cure for the Resurrection disease. The US government isn’t the only one after Ballard, though, and it will take every bit of cunning that Marco possesses to take on this job, out among the wreckage of a country in collapse, overrun by the hordes of living dead.
It’s probably pretty obvious to you by now, dear reader, that I like zombies. It’s a very popular genre right now, and when it comes to zombies, I’m not a gourmand, I’m a gourmet, and I’m always on the lookout for the next above-the-cut zom novel. Luckily, The Return Man more than fits the bill. When I mentioned that more than just the US is interested in a possible cure or vaccine for the Resurrection disease, take that to heart, because Marco will have to deal with some pretty nasty customers (other than zombies), on his journey to Sarsgard Medical Prison, where Ballard was last known to be. He picks up an unlikely ally (or is he) in the form of Ken Wu, Chinese assassin and spy, and a group of psychotic militia men are after them as well. Trust me, the Horsemen will give you a case of the shudders. I really enjoyed the author’s idea that zombies might have a trace of their old selves intact. Not much, but enough to seek out places that are familiar or give them comfort. While this isn’t necessarily a comforting thought, considering the state of these things that were once human, it provides a neat twist on the usual zombie fare.
I had absolutely no trouble getting into, and staying immersed in, The Return Man. There is a ton of carnage in this, seriously, the sheer number of zombies that Marco and Wu have to wade through is staggering, and when it comes to zombie killin’, the author doesn’t leave much to the imagination. That’s ok, though! I mean, you’ll cringe, at least, I did and consider myself somewhat jaded, but the gore really is necessary to paint a terrifying picture of what our hero has to endure, and has had to steel himself to in order to survive in the Evacuated States. The Return Man has quite a bit more depth to it than your average zombie apocalypse novel because Marco himself has a lot of depth, and we also get to know Wu quite a bit during the telling of the story. You’ll think you have Wu’s number at the beginning, but you won’t, and his story just added another layer to the unfolding of The Return Man. I enjoyed every terrifying bit of this book, and if you love zombies, good writing, and great storytelling, I think you will too!