Keith C. Blackmore’s Breeds, Book 1 – Book Spotlight

Welcome, Readers! Happy New Year! I’ve got a special one for you this month.

Regular visitors to these Spotlight sections might remember a book I talked about back in July of 2022. It was Mark Tufo’s Devil’s Desk. It’s a story about an isolated group of campers dealing with some straight-up biblical weather and natural disasters while staying in the frozen north. Oh, and flesh hungry Yeti, to boot. This book had all the things I enjoy in a quick and easy horror novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I listened to it via Audible and, as much as I enjoyed the story, the other thing I adored was the voice of Sean Runette. He just sounds so cool, I wanted to listen to him read more things. (He’s got one of those voices where you’d listen to him read the phone book or an assortment of grocery lists and still come away from the experience feeling as though you’d had a pretty good time.) So, I went ahead and downloaded Breeds, Book 1 (Also read by Sean Runette, if context didn’t make that obvious) with the intention of Spotlighting it in October. Another horror novel, so, it seemed kind of fitting.

Breeds is a book about a group of people in an isolated coastal town set in the great north dealing with some straight up biblical weather and a horde of flesh hungry werewolves and…. yeah. You can see my quandary. It’s not exactly like Devil’s Desk… but it’s close enough that I figured 2 or 3 months wasn’t quite enough breathing room for the two books to stand apart. 5 or 6 months, though? I feel like that’s a safe bet.

So, strap on your snow-shoes and parka, make sure Fido is safely tucked away inside and brave a blizzard with me as we find out just what kind of abominations have been let loose on this otherwise lovely little town.

Book Stats

Basic Premise

Amherst cove is a sleepy little town on the coast, and most people who live there like it that way just fine. Ross, for one. A born outdoorsman, he’s out for his morning walk (Checking snares for rabbits.) when he spots human footprints in the snow. Which wouldn’t be so weird if they weren’t barefoot. What kind of crazy person would be running around shoeless in winter? He decides to call it in to the local P.D. Just in case it’s something they ought to know about. (Like the rash of pet-nappings and missing dog cases going on in town.)

Speaking of crazy people, there’s also the town recluse, Borland. Walter Borland. No-one knows much about him and he keeps it that way on purpose… but as someone does find their way to his home, he offers at least token hospitality. Unfortunately, this visitor’s intentions are murderous and Borland put’s an end to the man’s life easily enough. Kill or be killed is a motto Walter Borland has no qualms about. In his almost 400 years on this earth, he’s fought and killed many. Walter Borland is, after all, a werewolf.

Two more characters enter the fray in the form of Doug Kirk and Moses Morris. They’re wardens. Not game wardens or anything like that… well. Not exactly. They are also werewolves and their task is to keep the weres in their respective home ranges in line. No revealing themselves to the Cattle (That would be the rest of us, you understand.) no reckless killing of humans… well. No reckless behavior of any kind.

They are moved about and given orders by a mysterious cabal of elder werewolves and the current set of orders are to go check on Walter Borland… because he’s been very reckless. Old weres tend to get that way.

What Kirk and Morris find when they get to Walter’s homestead is something beyond their wildest nightmares. And what’s worse? Ross gets involved too. An unlikely ally to Kirk and Morris, Ross knows the town. He knows the people. He’s useful against what’s coming… but what is that exactly?

Remember those dogs I mentioned earlier? The missing ones? Well. They wind up getting found, but the people of Amherst Cove might wind up wishing they had stayed lost. Borland has been running some kind of experiments on these poor mutts. Experiments that go against all natural laws. These dogs are forever changed. How, you ask?

You gotta read it to find out.

My Take

So, I’m going to lead off by saying I love dogs. Dogs are some of my favorite people. There IS a fair bit of cruelty to them depicted in this book. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I totally get it. If that’s what I was told before getting this book, I may well have skipped over it myself. Kind of glad that’s not the case, though.

The dogs in this book do become monsters. I’m not going to spoil much more than that but, rest assured, apart from the conditions Borland kept them in? Very little happens to these dogs while they are just… dogs. They become creatures of the night, abominations, vicious and cruel in their own right so it’s not like our heroes are out there kicking puppies for the sake of kicking puppies.

Kirk, Morris and Ross are fun characters to spend time with. Kirk is a conflicted werewolf who has to remind himself over and over that just because he is a monster, that doesn’t mean he has to act like a monster. Morris is a gruff, stern, untalkative sort of bad-ass that doesn’t take guff from anyone… but you can tell his heart’s in the right place. Ross is our audience proxy – suddenly thrown into a world of werewolves and monsters who he suddenly has to safeguard his community from. They work together fantastically.

The monsters in this book are genuinely frightening and disquieting.

The whole thing is also extremely well written – violent and gory, but described in surprising and unexpected ways. Despite my love for the horror genre, I’m seldom a fan of gore for gore’s sake and I’m a wuss when it comes to really in-depth descriptions of personal pain and suffering; this book does a lot of great work to keep it all fun and gross and weird in ways that made me laugh out loud one moment and wince the next. In short, anyone who likes your more violent monster stories is going to get a kick out of this one.

And Sean Runette does a fantastic job with the narration. I loved it every bit as much as I’ve enjoyed his other audio book work. (I’ve already listened to the sequel to this one. Expect a Spotlight on that at some point.)

All in all, a fantastic read.

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