The Molossus of Old Man Moyer
by Joe Lyon
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Horror
Print Length: 262 pages
Reviewed by Erin Britton
What’s the going rate for a violent death followed by an eternity of damnation?
A seamless mashup of the horror and mystery genres, Joe Lyon’s The Molossus of Old Man Moyer is a fast-paced novel that thrills and chills. Whether it’s the supernatural forces or the machinations of men that are the real evil, the horror elements are suitably spine-chilling while the mystery aspects are nicely mind-boggling, and the story as a whole is just as exciting as a joyride in Jimmy Myer’s infamous Deathmobile.
“Deacon Tibbs had no idea how much time he had left, for even a psychic can die unexpectedly,” which seems a bit of a shame. Nevertheless, after a day where he wastes hours queueing to renew his driving license, to his considerable surprise, Tibbs shuffles off this mortal coil while sleeping. It shouldn’t have come as that much of a shock really, as while attempting to beat boredom at the DMV by psychically communicating with an old friend, he had ominously encountered “a big black dog with eyes aglow, red as fire” on the astral plane.
Jimmy Myer, a former criminal now seeking to make an honest living in the corpse transporting business, is tasked with taking Tibbs’ body from the morgue to his hometown of Batesville for burial. Unfortunately for Myer, the whole enterprise gets off to a bad start when he senses someone observing him as he prepares the corpse: “A pale man stood there. […] His bloated body was fat and naked. His eyes were jet black as if they had imploded inside. Shades of blue and white flashed on his skin at the strobing of the overhead light.”
It’s the ghost of Deacon Tibbs and he’s not pleased with his current predicament—that is, the whole being dead thing. Ghostly Tibbs suggests that Myer is standing between him and eternal rest, and then he sinisterly proclaims: “The Molossus is coming. […] Coming for you like all the others.” It’s all pretty terrifying, but Myer can’t risk losing his job and therefore violating his parole, so when the ghost disappears, he continues with the transport operation as planned.
Sadly, his day doesn’t improve and the trip to Batesville proves to be far from uneventful. Just as Myer is losing concentration due to the lengthy drive and thinking back on childhood memories he would rather forget, Tibbs’ corpse begins to speak again, warning him of impending danger. Distracted by the presence of the undead, Myer momentarily takes his eyes off the road, which is just enough time for the hearse—better known as the Deathmobile—to hit a dog before skidding to a halt.
Exiting the vehicle, Myer looks “over the massive animal more closely. The dog looked like a mastiff but not entirely. The snout was shorter and broader than any breed he had seen. […] A puddle of blood pooled out of its mouth. Jimmy checked for a pulse but there was nothing. The dog was dead.” A quick check of the dog’s collar reveals that its name had been Belky and that it had belonged to Colman “Old Man” Moyer, one of the wealthiest men in the country.
Whether motivated by the desire to do the right thing or the fear of being sued to oblivion, Myer decides to return Belky’s body to his owner, which lands him right in the middle of a centuries-old conspiracy involving ancient gods, diabolical bargains, and the possibility of wealth beyond measure. Can Myer avoid the fate that has befallen many before him? Why is Old Man Moyer so keen on mummification? Will the ancient gods ever be appeased? And what can the ghost of Deacon Tibbs do to help?
The Molossus of Old Man Moyer intrigues from the outset as the existence of paranormal activity is immediately highlighted through Deacon Tibbs’ attempts to psychically contact Vera Kay, an old friend and fellow clairvoyant. It’s casually done but makes it abundantly clear that the non-normal will play a prominent role in the story. The episode also elucidates how Tibbs is the real deal, and despite being a complex character who always has an eye on the prize, he is willing to take steps to use his power for good when the opportunity arises.
Of course, Tibbs isn’t the only source of paranormal activity. The Molossus—a breed of dog said to have died out with the collapse of the Roman Empire—is menacing in both the astral plane and the real world, and Lyon uses it to great effect as a harbinger of doom. Moreover, the incorporation of various strands of mythology from the ancient world adds richness to the story as well as an enhanced sense of realism and tension concerning the grand conspiracy woven around the sinister canine.
What’s more, the supernatural isn’t the only source of evil in the book. Alongside Jimmy Myer’s unfortunate entanglement with Old Man Moyer and the Molossus, the town of Batesville is suffering from a spate of missing persons. Most recently, two young boys have vanished and Detective Artemis Blackwell’s investigation into their disappearance adds another dimension to the story.
This mystery element is cleverly crafted, adding depth to the overtly supernatural story and keeping readers guessing as to the what, how, and why. Detective Blackwell’s investigation helps to firmly ground the story in the real world, and Lyon combines the horror of the unknown or unknowable with the even more dastardly horror that can be lurking in the hearts of everyday folks. The contrasts and similarities between these two aspects of evil are striking and disturbing.
The Molossus of Old Man Moyer is a quick-moving, unsettling, and shocking horror story that strikes a perfect balance between the impossible and the plausible as Myer attempts to untangle himself from a truly unholy mess, Detective Blackwell tackles another disturbing case, and both Tibbs and Kay search for peace from their psychic gifts. It’s a cracking read that should appeal to fans of both the horror and mystery genres.
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