The first clue was the door… open ever so slightly. “The second clue was the bittersweet scent of Were-spider blood drifting from inside the house.” Yikes!
Spider’s Lullaby begins with Deacon Chalk, Occult Bounty Hunter—”have silver bullets, will travel”—and his lady friends, Charlotte and Tiff, returning to Charlotte’s place after a night of binge drinking. Fortunately, Deacon’s not too drunk to recognize the danger they’re about to walk into.
Deacon’s “stronger, faster, and tougher than plain old human” with abilities that lend themselves to hunting monsters. He is a 6-foot-4, muscled mountain of a man with a tortured past. His family was “ritualistically slaughtered” for an arcane sacrifice. A memory that surfaces to haunt him periodically.
Right now, he’s sniffing out were-spider blood and finding corpses split in two and others with gaping bullet wounds. Then they head downstairs, “the sides and ceiling of the stairs coated in webbing.” They discover “the egg sac is gone and so is Ronnie.”
Once’s he’s ascertained there’s no imminent danger, Deacon hunts for clues. No shell casings have been left behind, but he’s able to extract bullets, .45’s. And they’re silver.
“This was done by someone who knew they were hitting a lycanthrope’s home,” Deacon says. A professional job. Now, he will have to find the egg before it hatches, before dawn. Let’s just say it would be really bad if Deacon doesn’t find it in time. As for Ronnie, she’s a friend and employee of Deacon’s who may just end up as spider food for the hatchlings.
And eww… Deacon’s initial investigation continues, and how he learns a katana was used is just… eww.
Then it’s off to a special club called Cordite to talk to the Russian for information. Ivan Dragonovich—and yes, he’s an actual dragon—knows the ins-and-outs of the world of hitmen, and Deacon suspects he’ll be able to point them in the direction of the hired killer responsible for the mess in Charlotte’s house. Indeed, Ivan is able to direct Deacon and co., but is the katana-wielding killer working on his own or for someone else?
Deacon and co. head to a warehouse full of crates with drugs and firearms in a derelict section of town. They have stun batons for the grunts and their own arsenal for the boss. It’ll be an epic battle. One more difficult than they can imagine.
There’s a certain “ick factor” during parts of the story, especially the initial scene of the crime. Evocative language stirs up nightmare-inducing imagery, especially for arachnophobes (helped along by the cover image). Some secondary characters here are well-written. Charlotte is suitably cold and alien—and creepy—as the spider mama, and Tiff and Ronnie are tough gals that are more than capable of fighting alongside Deacon. I found Ivan, the Russian dragon, particularly intriguing as a briefly-met character.
Spider’s Lullaby is the second novella by author James R. Tuck, and its story is set after the events of Blood and Bullets, the first book in the series. Tuck’s first novella, That Thing at the Zoo, was a prequel to the series’ first book. The Deacon Chalk: Occult Hunter series are hardcore action-adventure, horror, urban fantasy stories that may appeal to fans of Dean Koontz and Rob Thurman.
Please note that James R. Tuck’s novellas are currently only available in ebook form, but widely available.