A Song for Quiet

"The train rattles like teeth in a dead man's skull as Deacon James sags against the window, hat pulled low over his eyes," writes Cassandra Khaw in her eerie horror novella, A Song for Quiet. Set in the 1940s, when racism and Jim Crow laws were rampant in the Deep South, the second in the Persons Non Grata series features Deacon James, a black man who plays the blues on his saxophone like no one's ever heard before. As he passes from known tunes into the world of improv, the music he plays morphs into a foreign entity in his brain that threatens to consume him if he gives it full reign. Others also want what he carries inside his head, including the crazy John Persons, who seems to appear and disappear like magic. When Deacon meets a young wisp of a girl who can play haunting improvisations on the cello, the action ramps up as the pair struggles to cope with the nightmares that surround them.

Khaw has carefully and poetically blended the notations often used to describe music with a twisted and horrific world of hallucinations, violence, grief and "gaping mouths and grasping tendrils." The story is subtle and open-ended, leaving readers to ponder what is really after Deacon and the girl, and why Persons wants what they have so desperately. It's a quick, unsettling read that reverberates inside the head, a musical riff sure to appeal to those who love noir horror. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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