Dave Zeltserman’s The Caretaker of Lorne Field is a pretty major change of pace from what I’ve read of his previous shit, namely Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer, the series of books known as his loose “man released from prison” trilogy from Serpent’s Tail Press. Where that shit is straight-ahead full-dark basement crazy noir, Caretaker is more horror or sci-fi or even a fable more than it is a crime novel. I was skeptical too, dear reader, but fret fucking not, because The Caretaker of Lorne Field might not be crime, but it sure as shit is dark and exciting as all hell.
It’s the story of Jack Durkin, the ninth generation of Durkin men that has been pulling weeds from Lorne Field at the edge of a small New England town for three hundred years. It is said that unless someone carefully pulls the weeds every day all year from spring until the first frost they’ll quickly grow into fearsome Aukowies, monstrous creatures that can wipe out the entire world within a couple of weeks. Naturally, as the story is set in the present day, few people beyond the elderly actually believe Durkin is literally saving the world every day. Even Jack’s own wife, frustrated with how little one can stretch an $8,000 salary from the county anymore, and his eldest son, the next in line for the job of caretaker once he turns twenty-one, doubt Jack’s stories of screaming weeds and the end of times. But what will actually happen if no one tends Lorne Field?
And that is the central question of The Caretaker of Lorne Field: whether or not Jack is the under-appreciated savior of the world or just a crazy old coot pulling weeds like, well, the fate of the fucking planet depended on it. With every chapter Zeltserman turns up the tension, evidence for shit being supernatural quickly followed by clues that it may just be psychological for Jack, no answers revealed until the very end of the book. I’m not one to read a book in one sitting, but here I most definitely fucking had to – I simply needed to find out the truth no matter who was calling me or what was on the tube. So yeah, I guess you could say I fucking liked it well enough, huh?
This is one of those novels, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, that should be shoved in the hands of young readers to show them that books can be complex thematically while also fucking thrilling at the same time. The prose, typical of Zeltserman’s work, is tight, no-bullshit stuff and the story masterfully never tips its hand or oversells its message. I’m not calling it a young adult novel in the fucking slightest – this is dark, read it under the covers with a flashlight so your parents can’t see what you’re reading shit – but I am saying that it could make some fucking avid readers out of some young adults, expand their palettes beyond Harry Potter and Twilight and those damn video games they love so damn much (I think I’ve referenced that Mr. Show quote before, but I’ll leave it to my biographers to tell future generations in what review that was).
You know you want to know what the deal is with those fucking weeds is, don’t you reader? Well, I’m not telling, because that’s just the kind of asshole I am. I’m leaving it on you to grab the new Zeltserman and figure that shit out for yourself. If you’re disappointed, I can’t say that I want to know you. Well, if you’re a super attractive lady person, then maybe in the biblical sense (yeah, I’m classy like that).