Joe Hark, the Night Marshal of Pitchfork County, is just a dusty ol’ supernatural law man, who’s been doing a tough job for far, far too long. Pitchfork is a rare place, a special community on the cusp between worlds, and Joe has been tasked and empowered by the Long Man—a sinister otherworld figure ruling Pitchfork from his Black Lodge—to keep the Left-Hand Path darkness in check. And Joe does his job well, though more often than not he lets his magically imbued shotgun do the problem solving. But when a bizarre trio of grisly, Frankenstein women (or half-made girls) show up in Pitchfork, Joe is in for a heap of woe. It seems some shady witch from his past is brewing up trouble (and meth), seeking to unleash an old-world, dark god … and the only one who can put an end to the vile shenanigans is the unfortunate Nigh Marshal.
The MC: Joe is a pretty detestable human being, at least in the being of the novel: his kids have some nasty supernatural powers and Joe isn’t above using them to help him get the job done—even if it means the kids suffer, and boy do they suffer. He’s also a compulsive drunk, often putting his habit over and above everything in his life, including his wife. He swears a lot, he’s about as patient as an ADHD goldfish, and he’ll pretty much shoot anyone who looks cross-eyed at him (at least if they’re dabbling in bad hoodoo), often without a lick of remorse. With all that said, I love me some Joe. He’s not a soft, cuddly teddy-bear; he’s a hard man, doing hard, grim work. Sometimes he does that work in morally questionable ways, but it’s still a job that needs doing.
The World: Pitchfork is a great place. It’s obvious that Sam Witt has a very clear vision for his world; the mythology is intriguing and fresh, as is the system of magic. You do get thrust right into the heart of the action without a lot of backstory or long drawn out exposition. You discover the world as Joe moves through it, and there is a lot you never really find out at all. For me, it was great—I like having to work a bit, I don’t want to be told everything, I want there to be some mystery, and this book leaves you with a sense that there’s a lot more going on then you know. I’m sure glad I don’t live in Pitchfork, but it’s a fun place to visit.
The Story and Writing: The plot was great though a fairly straight forward solve the mystery, stop the monster type of story (not that there’s anything wrong with that—those are the kind of books I write too). There’s lots of action, which is very well written, though a quick word of caution: Half-Made Girls is gory. Lots of gore, lots of violence, lots of vivid and strangely disturbing images, so if you have a weak stomach this one might not be up your alley. Overall, Sam Witt has a superb talent—his characters are believable even if not always likeable, his imagery is wonderful (and frightful at times), and the guy really knows how to spin a great yarn.
The Rating: For me, Five Stars. Buy it here: Half-Made Girls: A Pitchfork County Novel