Blue Lights in a Jar by Brick Marlin

Blue Lights in a Jar by Brick Marlin
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (192 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewer: Astilbe

A villain called the Shepherd has lost one of his flock, a soul who he has collected and has stuffed in a jar, placing it in his room in Purgatory. A kind-hearted, plump fellow named Vergil is the flock’s only hope not only to escape the Shepherd, but to find the way to Heaven. Follow along as the world shifts into odd scenery of the afterlife where one encounters the dead – but not long forgotten.

Death isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. Whether that new start will be beautiful or horrifying is something the characters in this tale have more control over than they might think.

Vergil Grey has not had an easy life. As a child and teenager he was horrifically bullied by his classmates. In early adulthood he marries the first woman he ever loved, Wendy, and she slowly becomes verbally and emotionally abusive. By the time this story begins Vergil has long since accepted her lies about his worth as a human being and no longer thinks of himself in very complimentary terms. A chance encounter with a small child running away from danger forces him to act quickly. With no time to consult his wife or second-guess his choices Vergil must rely on his conscience to protect those who cannot protect themselves. His transformation was slow and sometimes difficult but it was quite rewarding to see Vergil step up to challenges that he had been browbeaten into believing he wasn’t smart or good enough to undertake.

I have only one criticism of this tale. It would have been nice to see an explanation for Wendy’s atrocious behaviour. Was she continuing the cycle of abuse after a traumatic childhood? Was she severely mentally ill? Perhaps she was living with a brain injury that prevented her from functioning in an emotionally healthy manner? I can’t imagine anyone treating his or her spouse in such a controlling, punitive, cruel manner without the interference of at least one of these factors.

Luckily the fast-paced storyline quickly distracted me from that question. Vergil and Charlie, the boy he rescues, leap from purgatory to to an otherworldly graveyard and beyond with barely a second to catch their breath. Charlie’s true origins are revealed in deliciously slow increments that pushed the plot forward while simultaneously whetting my appetite for more of his backstory.

Blue Lights in a Jar was so engaging I inhaled it in one sitting. This is the kind of story that’s impossible to walk away from without knowing how it ends and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves cross-genre adventures.

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