Cady’s stylized prose penetrates the darkest crevices of the imagination.
Kevin Cady’s blood-drenched thriller Crooked Principles: Book Two of the Warren Files sends FBI agents Elijah Warren and Aurelia Blanc on a chilling investigation to a remote Alaskan town ravaged by glacial storms and murder. While diverse characters confront internal struggles and fight to hold onto the ones they love, the killing escalates.
When David Levesque steps in as sheriff of the sequestered town of Grizzly, Alaska, he hopes for a simple, quiet life. Instead, the next twelve years horrify and confound him. Each year, like clockwork, a single resident is vilely executed, then put on display—a museum exhibit of mutilated flesh.
The FBI’s top detectives, the striking couple Elijah and Aurelia, go undercover to help Sheriff Levesque solve Grizzly’s secret, but upon their arrival they realize everything about the place feels inexplicably wrong. As the weather worsens, snow and ice block the only passage out. Now they are trapped as the killing pattern spirals, setting into motion a gruesome chain of events that rattles the small town’s inhabitants and outsiders to the core.
The book’s use of metaphor is stimulating and abundant. The residents of Grizzly seem strange and detached as they go through the motions of a ghostlike existence, “lumbering back … like an undead” horde from the mine that employs the majority of their minuscule population.
Several characters are given inhuman characteristics. Nightmarish descriptions border on grotesque fantasy. A man’s eyes are black putrid holes oozing pus. A toad-like woman ribbits and croaks from behind a desk. The imitation of sounds instills life in the narrative, and sometimes adds humor.
Poignant flashbacks provide insight into different characters’ pasts, distilling moments into powerful, evocative scenes. Levesque recalls the pinnacle of the LA gang violence he combated for most of his career in a lengthy, resonant passage. Elijah and Aurelia reach a heightened level of intimacy when she discloses a heartrending story involving fragments of her childhood.
The menacing backdrop thrashes and growls throughout the novel. Multiple aspects of the environment are tangibly rendered, like the raw, dripping walls of the mine. The layered milieu includes a haunting soundtrack of music and nature, such as an Eddie Vedder song with solemn lyrics that is playing on the jukebox, or birds chirping as Levesque heads down a walkway toward the front door of a house—when he reaches it, “the birds’ songs shut off like the player broke.”
The unpredictable plot is flawlessly executed, setting the stage for dicey endeavors and terrifying findings. The pace quickens as urgency peaks, making it impossible to put down.
Crooked Principles is a sinister masterpiece that conjures visceral emotions and stomach-churning images. Cady’s stylized prose penetrates the darkest crevices of the imagination, creating an arctic place from which there is no escape.
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