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Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town
Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town
Adam Christopher | 2019 | Horror, Mystery, Thriller
8
8.0 (4 Ratings)
Book Rating
Jim Hopper (1 more)
Serial killers and cults, oh my!
Too much attention to detail (1 more)
Using the same body language for every character
In 1977, New York City was a disaster; men were trying to return to a normal life after Vietnam ended, gangs were on every street corner, and a serial killer, by the name 'Son of Sam,' was on the loose. But for Detective Jim Hopper, New York was housing another serial killer just for him- - - a killer who is killing Vietnam war veterans, and leaving behind a psychic calling card, known as the Zener cards.

Adam Christopher is the chosen author to tell Stranger Things' fans about the most important homicide case that Jim Hopper ever worked on in the novel 'Darkness on the Edge of Town.' Fans may recall from season 2, when Eleven found a secret hatch in Hopper's cabin, it revealed boxes under the floor - one which was labeled 'New York.' This is that story.

The entire book is Hopper telling Eleven about his greatest homicide story from New York City. Readers get to meet new characters from Hopper's past, but the most memorable may be his partner in the Homicide Unit, Rosario Delgado (1977 was a time where Homicide Units didn't allow female detectives, and Delgado is one of the first of few that is allowed into the unit). Delgado, who is Cuban, but was raised in Queens, New York, has all the right attitude that wins over her partner, Hopper. The reader will realize that they are two-peas-in-a-pod.

Quickly, the story gets into the first case the two have together: the Zener card serial killer; here, we learn that there were two previous victims, both murdered the same way: stabbed five times with the wounds joining together to form a five-pointed star. Throughout the book, the story goes back and forth between 1977 and the present, where Eleven asks questions about the story, and also, Hopper questioning himself as to whether he should continue to tell Eleven the story.

But soon, we meet a very important man named Leroy Washington - a gang member who wants protection in exchange for the information that he holds- this leads Hopper to our villain: a cult leader who goes by the name Saint John. This villain believes that Satan is going to rise and destroy New York City.

Backtracking a little before, Hopper and Delgado are taken off the case of the Zener card murders, introducing readers to Special Agent Gallup. Gallup states that the third victim, Jacob Hoeler, was also a Special Agent, so the case is turned over to Federal Agents. "What you don't know, Detective, is that Jacob Hoeler is one of ours- - - Special Agent Jacob Hoeler. He was working on assignment, and the fact that he was killed in the course of his duties is of primary concern to my department. Therefore, we need to be sure that a most thorough investigation is carried out. In order to ensure that happens, we will be taking the case in-house. " Hopper, along with Delgado, refuse to let the case go, and secretly continue to work on it. But, as they dig deeper into the evidence and crime scenes, the two realize the murder case is a part of something much bigger - - - a cult that is armed with vehicles and weapons, ready to take over New York City for their leader, Saint John.

Readers get to see the story from both Hopper's and Delgado's point of view, which readers may question how Hopper knows Delgado's side of the story, but quickly to react, Eleven asks this very question for us: " 'Fair point,' said Hopper. 'But we - - - I mean, Delgado and me- - - we pieced it all together afterward. We had to interview everyone we could, and we put it all into a big official report. Actually, it took way longer to write that thing up than we spent on the investigation itself. We were even flown down to D.C. to present it to a bunch of anonymous suits in some federal building. They grilled us pretty well, too, although I ever found out who they all were. ' He grinned. ' Kinda sums the whole thing up, really.' " Even so, without Delgado's point of view, the story wouldn't have turned out as well as it did.

Hopper's obsession with cracking this case lands him in the center of it- - - he is recruited, not by choice, to the task force that is trying to top Saint John's big plan to destroy New York City. Leroy Washington, the informant from before, is Hopper's wing man for the mission, because Washington turns out to be a recruiting officer for the cult. Hopper is to pretend that he is a new recruit, and that he is an ex-cop, who just happened to 'murder' two people the night before. Hopper infiltrating the cult is one of the most exciting parts of the book, but the sequence of these scenes are much too short, leaving this reader disappointed.

Unfortunately, by this time, Delgado has become somewhat of a secondary character. She still works the case, being in the-know of Hopper going undercover, but we see little else of Delgado's character being developed. This is a missed opportunity indeed.

Although I enjoyed Christopher bringing Hopper's backstory to light, the writer is so detail oriented in his writing, that it bogged down much of the flow in the story. The reader is told things in almost every scene that come to nothing, and just seem to waste the reader's time. You may also find that the author uses the same words or physical actions to describe emotions for every single character (such as neck rolling to show stress), which gets old very quickly.

With that said, and only a few inconsistencies here and there, the book was very good. The story takes off pretty quickly and doesn't seem to slow down. The scenery descriptions put the reader right there with our favorite Hawkins Police Chief, Jim Hopper, but the best part about this book is that you don't have to be a Stranger Things' fan to enjoy it; anyone who enjoys Crime Fiction would love this story. Highly recommend!
  
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5 Minute Movie Guy (379 KP) rated A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014) in Movies

Jun 28, 2019 (Updated Jun 28, 2019)  
A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)
A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)
2014 | Action, Drama
4
6.5 (6 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Liam Neeson puts in a commanding performance and is a natural as a detective. (2 more)
The film has great visual flair and creates an effectively dark and moody atmosphere.
The solid supporting cast strengthen an otherwise dull and derivative film.
The heavy graphic content of rape, mutilation, and murder is extremely off-putting. (1 more)
There's not a single likeable character to be found in the whole movie.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is unsettling but never really all that compelling. It's a decent detective movie, but your enjoyment of it may depend on how well you can handle its grimy setting and extreme violence.
After watching A Walk Among the Tombstones, I literally felt like I was going to puke. This mystery-thriller, based on Lawrence Block’s popular novel, is a gross and grisly foray into the criminal underworld in search of sadistic kidnappers. Director Scott Frank paints a portrait of a dark and twisted 1990s New York City where women are disappearing, only to later show up chopped into pieces. The film is grim without remorse or reason, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be eager for it to end so you can wash your hands of it entirely. It stars Liam Neeson as an unlicensed private detective named Matthew Scudder who leads an investigation to find the people responsible for these horrific murders. While it may appear from the trailers to be another entry in Neeson’s growing lineup of ass-kicking action-thrillers, it’s actually far from it. A Walk Among the Tombstones plays out more like a brooding, slow-paced horror film. If you’re expecting Taken, then you’re walking right into the wrong movie.

Neeson’s character Matt Scudder is a former alcoholic and an ex-cop turned personal private investigator who works in exchange for favors. Since he’s no longer affiliated with the police, he’s an appealing person to turn to for those who need help but want to keep the cops out of the picture. When a drug dealer’s wife is kidnapped and savagely murdered, he seeks out Scudder for help. What follows is in an investigation into the murder that links up to the murder of another drug dealer’s wife. With the killers still at large, Scudder is determined to catch them before they can strike again.

Being that Scudder is working with criminals to find even worse criminals, the characters in A Walk Among the Tombstones are quite despicable. In fact, I would argue there’s not a single likeable character in the whole film. Even our protagonist Scudder is a shady person with a corrupt past. It’s hard to care about anyone here except for the poor abducted women, and yet we never get to know any of them. They’re reduced to the point where it’s hard to see them as anything more than the killers’ unlucky victims who have no chance of surviving. We follow Scudder through this twisted investigation not because we care about him, but for their sake of these women, with the hope that our detective hero can put an end to these killers’ unspeakable crimes. The film’s dreadful cast of characters give an incredibly bleak and hopeless outlook on people as a whole.

Liam Neeson gives a suitable performance as Scudder, fitting into the role of a detective quite naturally. As usual, he has a great presence and commands your attention any time he’s on screen. In A Walk Among the Tombstones, he’s not nearly the unstoppable action-hero he has been in his other recent films, but he’s still an intimidating guy you’d be wise not to mess with. He does actually have a couple tense conversations with the killers over the phone that are reminiscent of the famous scene in Taken, but certainly not as memorable.

The killers in the movie happen to be far more appalling than interesting. We don’t ever get to know much about them or their motives. They’re sick, demented people that aren’t given much more depth than being bad for the sake of being bad. However, there’s no question that they’re believably haunting and deranged. Despite their limited screen time and lack of complexity, their actors put in truly unnerving performances.

The film is well-acted throughout, with a few especially notable performances from supporting characters. Olafur Darri Olafsson is terrific as the creepy cemetery groundskeeper, and Eric Nelsen does a commendable job as the drug addict younger brother of the drug dealer who sought Scudder’s help. There’s also Brian “Astro” Bradley as a homeless teenager named TJ that Scudder befriends, who volunteers himself to be his crime-solving partner. Astro at times lightens up the moody film with his charm, and while he’s truly the only character that offers any sense of hope in the film’s gritty world, I think his character largely feels out of place as an unnecessary inclusion.

Scott Frank effectively creates a dark and sullen atmosphere in his movie that is also visually striking. He turns New York’s underbelly into a stylishly gloomy city where its seedy citizens can run rampant. He demonstrates proficiency behind the camera, building eeriness and suspense. However, he goes too far with the film’s graphic sexual content, which includes rape, torture, and mutilation. While he never gives you a very clear look at these heinous acts, he puts you right there in the moment and lets the camera linger. It’s sadistic, cruel, and very disturbing to watch. In a bizarre directorial decision, he has the 12 steps to recovery from Alcoholics Anonymous narrated over the climax of the film. Considering Scudder regularly attends AA meetings to celebrate his sobriety, I can understand why it was included, but it just doesn’t work and ends up detracting from the film’s most heightened sequences. He also disappointingly finishes the movie on a bad note with a conclusion that is drawn out far too long and which contains a weak, conventional ending that is completely forgettable.

A Walk Among the Tombstones raises more questions than it answers, but in a movie this morbid, maybe it’s best not to know. While the movie excels at being unsettling, it’s never really all that compelling. Filled with plenty of bad dialogue and characters that are hard to relate to and care about, I was yearning for this one to end so I wouldn’t have to endure any more of its vileness. Even with all the disturbing content aside, I would argue that the film is still only average at best. While I’m sure there are plenty of people with a penchant for the macabre that will enjoy the film, I am certainly not one of them and I left the theater feeling completely disturbed by what I had just watched. A Walk Among the Tombstones is a decent detective movie, but your enjoyment of the film may depend on how well you can handle its grimy setting and extreme violence. One thing that I can assure you is that I personally don’t have the stomach for it.

(This review was originally posted at 5mmg.com on 9.20.14.)