Book Review: The Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman

The Suicide Motor Club is Buehlman’s best work to date and one of the best vampire novels to come along since Salem’s Lot.

Vampires have long been a fascination among readers and authors alike, ranging from Stoker’s  classic Dracula to Stephen King’s exemplary Salem’s Lot and stopping at all points in between with Anne Rice’s gothic/romantic bloodsuckers, Stephanie Meyer’s sparkle vamps, and the deliciously gory splatterfest that is Skipp and Spector’s The Light at the End. So it’s safe to say that it’s a popular but well-trodden literary path in the horror genre, one that’s been tackled by the best and the worst that the genre has to offer, and it’s also safe to say that it’s something of a tired old trope by now. But every now and then an author comes along with a completely fresh and original take on the theme, one that hasn’t been beaten to death and that isn’t King or Stoker pastiche. Such is the case with Christopher Buehlman’s latest novel, The Suicide Motor Club.

As with his novel The Lesser Dead, Christopher Buehlman’s The Suicide Motor Club breathes new life into one of horror’s oldest and most frequently visited monsters, moving the vampire out of the castle or the gothic old mansion and taking the show on the road. As the book ensues Judith Lamb, one of the strongest female leads to come along in recent days, loses her son and husband when her car is run off the highway by the road tripping bloodsuckers, kicking off a nearly four hundred page tale that reads like one half that length.

The Suicide Motor Club is a group of bloodthirsty monsters that hunt the empty highways and byways of America in classic muscle cars, their eyes glowing silver like those of a coyote. They have the ability to charm people, making them do things they wouldn’t normally do or forget things they’ve seen like, for instance, the brutal slaying of their loved ones. But these ruthless hunters made a big mistake when they destroyed Judith’s family. Because Judith didn’t forget and now, as part of a group of vampire hunters known as The Bereaved, she’s the one doing the hunting.

One of the strong points of any Christopher Buehlman work is his ability to build sympathetic, three dimensional characters and he’s at the top of his game here. As mentioned before, Judith Lamb is one of the strongest female leads we’ve seen. She’s tough, she’s driven and, in spite of her fear, she’s courageous, facing dangers that the strongest of men might balk at. In addition, you really feel like she has a good soul and it makes her easy to care about. But the good guys aren’t the only well-developed characters in The Suicide Motor Club. Possibly not even the best ones. That honor goes to the vamps. They’re skanky, stinky, amoral creatures who delight in the atrocities they commit, causing brutal, horrific car crashes and then drinking the blood of the victims. And they’re some of the scariest vampires to ever be penned, largely because the violence they commit would be just as terrifying, if not more so, if they were committed by living, breathing humans. In addition to the aforementioned car wrecks, they shoot people, stab people, even string them up by the ankles and bleed them like livestock, and they take great pleasure doing so.

Another one of Buehlman’s strengths is his ability to set a tone and a pace and maintain them through the entirety of his stories. He drives this dark, horrific narrative forward at whiplash inducing speeds, never giving you, or his characters, a chance to catch a breath or take stock of events as he piles action scene upon action scene, telling his story with perfectly pitched voice, well written, interesting dialogue, and heart-pounding, gruesome, and terrifying violence. The Suicide Motor Club is as fast and mean as the muscle cars at its center and you’ll find yourself at the surprising and intriguing end long before you expect to be there. And while all the questions are answered and the conclusion is immensely satisfying, you’ll also find yourself hoping to see more of Buehlman’s quirky and delightful cast of characters. The ones that survive, that is.

Imagine if the movie Pulp Fiction were written with gritty Southern Gothic sensibilities and a King-esqe flair for character development and you’ll have a pretty clear idea of the dark eccentricities that are riddled throughout The Suicide Motor Club. Christopher Buehlman has crafted a masterwork of rock solid classic horror action with a modern flavor to it. The Suicide Motor Club is Buehlman’s best work to date and one of the best vampire novels to come along since Salem’s Lot.


Publisher: Berkley
eBook: (368pp)
Release Date: 7 June 2016

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