Like lifting up a rock in the forest to see what nightmarish vermin are squirming underneath or stopping to examine a maggot-infested carcass on the side of the road, reading Peter Craig's second novel, Blood Father, is as repugnant as it is enthralling. Lydia Jane Carson is a typical teenage runaway who, for the last three years, has been living with friends in the affluent suburbs of western Los Angeles. Ignored by her mother and routinely abused by a seemingly endless procession of stepfathers, Lydia's existence now consists of aimlessly driving around L.A. with her rich friends, looking for the next high. Her life goes from bad to worse when she meets and falls in love with an older man at a party. At first, Lydia believes that she and the mysterious Jonah Pincerna are "built out of the same pain and anxiety, and that they could heal each other" but she soon realizes that Jonah is a heartless killer with no concern for anyone except himself. Like a butterfly that has unwittingly flown into a spider's web, Lydia is soon fully immersed in Jonah's far-reaching criminal enterprises. When she finds herself part of a violent shakedown and is ordered by Jonah to kill a woman in cold blood, she instead turns the gun on Jonah, pulls the trigger and runs for her life. With no one to turn to, she calls her biological father John Link, a wild Hell's Angel recently released from prison after serving a sentence for manslaughter. Now sober and running a tattoo parlor out of a trailer in the desert, Link agrees to help his daughter whom he hasn't seen for more than a decade any way that he can. Reminiscent of novels like Mick Foley's Tietam Brown, Kim Wozencraft's Rush and Kristin McCloy's Velocity, which all feature unforgettable anti-heroes trapped in a stygian existence of reckless sex, drug addiction and brutal violence, this novel will stay with readers for a long time. Gruesome, haunting, tragic and, strangely enough, edifying, Peter Craig's Blood Father is nothing short of brilliant. Paul Goat Allen writes from Syracuse, New York.

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