I’ve had the book for more than two months and finally found time to read it last week. I could have started it the day it came in the mail but I’ve learned, the hard way that, once you start a Bill Looney title, not much else in the way of productive activity is going to get done until the book is finished.
Hunting the Storm, Looney’s fourth novel, lived up to those expectations, but I will admit that I lay it aside long enough to grab a few hours of sleep. Actually I found it rather difficult to go to sleep in the middle of the book because its suspense is not the sort of thing that makes for pleasant dreaming.
Set in Charleston, S.C., the plot of Hunting the Storm is centered on a decades-old theft of several paintings worth more than half a billion in today’s dollars. The chief protagonists are Shelby James, who is a homicide detective with the city police department who hails from Harlan, and finds himself partnered with Kate Withers, who is an FBI detective who specializes in stolen art recovery.
As is the case with his previous titles, it is practically impossible to discuss the action without revealing critical portions of the plot that readers should be allowed to unveil as they peruse the book. Suffice to say that incredibly powerful forces of good versus evil are at play and that good ultimately prevails but at a terrible price.
When an undercover FBI agent goes missing, the race is on to retrace her steps. James and Withers with a supporting cast of numerous other law enforcement personnel soon discover a veritable chessboard of players, including a set of reprehensible German aristocrats (say Nazi) a beautiful Irish mob enforcer, a museum curator obsessed with buried treasure and a voodoo-like sorcerer determined to avenge the murder of his nephew.
Detective James’s mother and her close friend, retired FBI detective Sharon O’Shea, the chief protagonist in Looney’s previously published Angels of the Abyss, drive from Harlan to Charleston in the midst of a raging, unpredicted hurricane to play significant roles as the story unfolds. This title, much like his earlier works, successfully combines science fiction, horror/terror, suspense and murder mystery in such a way that the mesh is actually a new genre that, in my reading experience, is essentially unique. Looney’s style is more journalistic than prosaic. I get the impression that I am listening to a talented storyteller more so than reading.
If you are looking for the shallow, flowery metaphors, gratuitous sex, cursing and vulgarity all too common in most modern best sellers, you are not going to find it here. There’s not a single word or situation in any of Looney’s books that you would not use in a conversation with your granddaughter.
Satan’s Breath, Lost Star of Jerusalem and Angels of the Abyss are the titles of the author’s first three books. All three titles are set in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and I would argue that the tales they tell are the most imaginative and truly creative literature ever written by any mountaineer.
You can order the current title or any of Bill Looney’s other books for $20 including shipping and handling by sending payment to Heritage Nook Books, P.O. Box 373, Pound, VA, 24279 or by calling Brenda Salyer at 276-796-4604. I also encourage anyone interested in central Appalachian writing, be it old or current, to visit the website, heritagenook.com.
Send email or inquiry to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Brenda tells me that she can ship all four titles in a single package for $75.