This novella is set a few years after the American Revolutionary War. The titular main character, Salem Hawley, won his emancipation after fighting on the side of the colonies and seems to be a teacher in New York. His opposites, including the other main character Hereford, are white doctors in pursuit of monsters.
Gore, graphic torture and body horror, body snatchers, peripheral racial tension, lack of decent female characters (mainly dead whores), hints of Lovecraft and some really twisted characters. Not the crime story with a supernatural twist and a strong black character I was looking for. Hawley was pretty lame and did not come across as a title character.
The first chapter started this off with a human vivisection in quite some detail, including sexual tension I could have done without (repeatedly). Generally the torture scenes made me uncomfortable and the violence just felt gratuitous. By chapter six I was pretty much done with this disturbing narrative, but curiosity kept me going. Chapter seven was so over the top and frankly disgusting that it veered into the absurd and by the time I was done with that gore fest, I just kept going out of stubbornness.
The ending really requires to continue with the sequel Borne of the Deep to get some closure, which I will most likely not do. This was definitely too much gore, graphic violence and nasty characters for my taste. Alas, if you are a fan of hardcore horror with a hefty helping of blood splatter and crunching bones, this might be for you.
Somewhere between 2 and 3 stars for me, with a beautiful cover and a story that doesn‘t do it for me.
Apparently inspired by Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and the New York Doctors‘ Riot of 1788.
I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!