John David Bethel
When I started reading Blood Moon, I was puzzled: why had the author chosen to fictionalize the Marc Schiller kidnapping when Mr. Schiller himself confirms the book’s accuracy in the foreword? With Bethel’s compelling and fast-moving style, why not write a non-fiction book of the year?
It takes many hundred pages to discover the reason, but you, dear reader, will clap and shout when you realize why. I certainly did.
The book centers on Recidio Suarez, based on Miami businessman Marc Schiller, who is kidnapped by a gang of thugs who can generously be described as “pure evil,” partly at the behest of Suarez’s discontented business partner. If not for Schiller’s assertion in the foreword of Blood Moon’s “chilling accuracy,” I would have thought the violence of his imprisonment gratuitous. There are also very nice, very accurate details of how Suarez seizes some control for himself by naming his captors and committing acts of petty revenge (Those interviewed in Captive describe similar coping strategies.)
After Suarez survives being left for dead, all of his assets having been extorted from him, the story follows his frustration, and that of his friend, former FBI agent Nolan Stevens, as they try to convince the Miami-Dade Police that a crime has occurred. MDPD is content to assume that Suarez, being Hispanic, is a petty drug dealer trying to get back at other Hispanic petty drug dealers. This profiling allows Suarez’s captors to roam the streets, free to threaten him, and anyone else unlucky enough to catch their attention.
It is at this point that the book really took off for me. I am not a big fan of gratuitous violence, and I would have called the descriptions of Suarez’s brutalization “torture porn” if not for their basis in reality. I also think the opening of the novel would have been more gripping if we had been given a few pages of “Recidio Suarez at home” to increase our sympathy for his character before his kidnapping. Suarez’s friendship with Stevens is introduced a month into the captivity, making it seem like a deus ex machina, so I think it also could have been presented in the exposition.
However, a relentless pace and the desire to know more serve to mask these flaws. Bethel delivers his readers to a deliciously satisfying ending. I wish I had Blood Moon over spring break, but, then again, I was in Florida…
4/5 stars: direct, brutal, compelling, and satisfying.
4/5 ‘fraidy cats: you will find yourself preferring animals to humans, hands down
5/5 “ick factor”: medically accurate descriptions of wounds and changes in the body after death. Multiple amputations without anesthesia (or any sort of medical training).