Monday, October 12, 2015

When the Tik-Tik Sings – Review

Author: Doug Lamoreux

First Published: 2015

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: In a sleepy historical Iowa town, on the banks of the Mississippi River, tourist season is in full swing, and the strangest serial killer the world has ever known is roaming at will.

It begins with a mysterious house explosion, a severely burned man, and an unidentified female body. More victims follow, each killed under the oddest circumstances, each bearing an identical but unidentified wound, each attack accompanied by the most eerie, musical ticking. When the lead homicide investigator goes missing, Police Sergeant Erin Vanderjagt is forced into the fray and into a personal hell she never imagined.

Who or what could be behind the bizarre deaths? Why is her lover, firefighter/paramedic Ben Court, suddenly acting crazy? Why has her idyllic world suddenly fallen apart? And – as the murders continue – what can Erin do, where can she go, how can she fight the horror... When the Tik-Tik Sings?

The review: For full disclosure Doug Lamoreux and I are Facebook friends, having met through my previous reviews of his work and the book was provided for me for review purposes. My previous reviews are of his novels Dracula’s Demeter and the Devil’s Bed.

The book itself concentrates on aswang myth and features an aswang, specifically of the manananggal type, and a tik-tik. It is made absolutely clear in narrative that the manananggal is not a vampire as it is not undead but, actually, some of the lore we get within the book suggests otherwise – especially the back story idea that it was staked (with a copper stake) and reduced to a skeletal state, but somehow regenerated when mercenaries in the Philippines removed said stake.

Of course the aswang is a cover all name (the tik-tik is a demonic bird in this but is an aswang itself) and many of the aswang myths have vampiric elements. The manananggal in this book is a devourer of foetuses, the consumption killing the mother in the process. But it is actually a soul eater as well with it only preying on a foetus when it is of an age to have a soul (believed to be when the foetal heartbeat is present). The tik-tik is a blood drinker, consuming what the manananggal leaves behind.

The joy of the aswang, for a writer, is the vast array of lore to choose from. Examples in this include the tik-tik being cursed to announce the presence of the manananggal with its song but making it sound close when far away and far away when close. There is the use of blessed coconut oil to detect the aswang, the idea of a manta ray’s tail being an effective whip weapon to fight aswang. Blessed ashes can be used against it and garlic is an effective ward. The manananggal’s eyes hold reflections in an inverted way, it has bat like wings when in monster form and leaves its legs behind when in that form also.

The idea of using such rich lore is one thing, but I think it brave to take that myth and move the action to the US – in this the aswang has followed a mercenary and his Filipino wife back from the Philippines. Generally this worked and allowed for genuine ignorance on the part of the characters. One thing I did like about the prose was the habit of occasionally addressing the reader directly, conspiratorially almost, in a way that drew the reader in. All in all I think When the Tik-Tik Sings worthy of a solid 7 out of 10.

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