Wild by Lincoln Crisler

7/10 Zombies in the Wild West: Fun and action-packed.

When Colonel Albert Waters, a controversial Civil War veteran, and his thirteen-year-old son Henry disappear from their El Paso, Texas home, Deputy Sheriff Kurt Kearney calls upon Matthias Jacoby, a strange newcomer, to help with his investigation. Word is, Jacoby’s handled a few cases like this before. Kearney and Jacoby form an uneasy alliance with Black Tom Catch, an infamous New Mexico rancher, cattle rustler and outlaw, and take off after the bandits they suspect kidnapped Waters.

Could the gunfighters have bitten off more than they can chew, however, when their search for the colonel reveals strong ties to black magic and blood sacrifice?

Synopsis sourced from Amazon (

I love novellas. They are short, easy to digest, and really fit in well with my current lifestyle of all work and little play. One of the things I love most about novellas is that it gives the author a few thousand words to explore an idea, no matter how weird, crazy or illogical it may seem. For example, if you ever wondered what would happen if we had zombies in the Wild West, then you need look no further than Wild by Lincoln Crisler, a short story about a Wild West detective who gets the shock of his life when his missing persons investigation turns up a zombie infestation.

Wild is set in the cosy town of El Paso where not much unexpected goes on, oh except for that unexpected kidnapping. Enter Matthias Jacoby, the stranger, who has a reputation for his investigation skills and would be an ideal assistant to the deputy in solving this case. The story progresses much the same as you would expect a mystery to progress, things move slowly yet deliberately, you get clues, you get red herrings, and in the process the detective uncovers information to suggest that this kidnapping is just a small part of some much larger mysteries. Well, that at least holds true until we run into the Zombies, at which point things truly become wild as the name suggests and the story becomes more of an action/adventure.

The pace here accelerates rapidly, the action is an absolute blast and there is plenty of it as the story motors along to its conclusion. There is a lot going on during the last half of this book, and to Crisler's credit he manages the transition from scene to scene very effectively, ensuring that I am able to keep up with the electric pace despite the constant viewpoint shifting. Unfortunately the conclusion misses the mark by a short distance, the story having been so overcome by the action that it loses a lot of the detail and does very little if anything to resolve a number of those mysteries set up at the start of the story. If you are a stickler for detail and love to have all your plots and subplots tied up in a nice little bow then this story may annoy you, but I didn't mind too much as I get the impression that this is either an introduction to what will be a much larger story, or it is part of a world that has already been established by Crisler in his previous collections of short stories.

In a story that is driven by plot and action, you don't get to see too much character development and that is the case here. What we do get though is very good, and I think Matthias Jacoby has the makings of a fantastic character. Deputy Kearney, the outlaw Black Tom and the doctor Juan Vargas are all very solid support characters who are original, relatable and fun to read about. The problem with the characters for me is that I didn't get to see much of their motivations. There is evidently a lot of backstory that drives these characters to do the things they do, but we rarely get an insight into these motivations before the action takes over. This is a small gripe given the size and structure of the story, however, character motivation is very important and for this short story to progress into something bigger I would need this issue to be addressed for it not to become a big issue.

I really like the idea of zombies in the Wild West, and I think Crisler has done an admirable job of weaving this idea together with the missing persons mystery story. While the fast pace of the plot causes a lot of the detail to be left behind, the well written high intensity action scenes do a lot to make up for this. If you are strapped for time and don't feeling like picking up another 400,000 word epic fantasy, I recommend you pick up Wild as something quick and fun to read with bucket loads of entertainment along the way.

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