A supernatural thriller/horror title featuring killer coffee? Now there’s a sentence you don’t see being written every day. And yet author Armand Rosamilia has written a book, Green River Blend, predicated on that very concept. Well, the back-cover blurb certainly sold me on the concept, and the cover art – with its steaming cup of coffee that ominously has a skull etched into the foam – was also rather enticing. Those facts, and the good words Brian Keene had for Mr Rosamilia on his podcast, led ne to taking a peek within the covers of Green River Blend.
Rosamilia certainly knows how to set up an intriguing and dramatic scenario. A coffee shop goes up in flames, supposedly an accident, caused by an overheating coffee pot. But that doesn’t explain the bodies under the floor, or the owner disappearing into thin air. Mere weeks later, entirely and completely coincidentally, a new coffee shop opens in the sleepy town of Hammond Beach, Florida. The owner seems friendly, and no-one seems suspicious that he’s paying over the odds for goods and wages, or that he’s near-obsessed with his own coffee blend, the titular Green River Blend. Floor Manager Betty Coburn isn’t suspicious – to begin with – but is confused by her new employer’s bizarre behaviour.
Rosamilia takes the time to develop Hammond Beach and its key inhabitants, ensuring that the reader becomes engaged with them and don’t just treat them as disposable redshirts. His characters are all fully-relatable humans, with hopes, desires and secrets. And once all of that groundwork is laid down, Rosamilia slowly but surely ratchet up the tension, as more and more suspicious and sinister things start to occur. Green River Blend is incredibly popular, and seems to have strange effects on those drinking it, emphasizing certain behaviours, or prompting buried personal traits to rise to the surface – and never good ones.
As days pass by, and the queue for Green River Blend gets longer and longer, this innocent little town begins to fall apart – and Rosamilia has us bear witness to all of it. He has a keen eye for the interconnected social interactions and relationships that tie people together, both visible and invisible, and these inexorably become garrottes to the population of Hammond Beach. It’s about a quarter of the way into Green River Blend that the horror elements start to creep in, and by this time the cast of characters are so well established that their degradation is all the more shocking and disturbing. From the daughter under the thumb of her mother who takes violent revenge, to the Confederacy-obsessed teenager, and the serial killer hiding behind the facade of a friendly shop-owner, Rosamilia unleashes a wave of misery, murder and mayhem on the town – all fuelled by the mysterious coffee and its secretive owner.
Although I can’t quite put my finger on an exact reason, Green River Blend is incredibly engaging and appealing as the narrative progresses, and the affected townsfolk become more and more depraved in their actions. I think it’s because every element of the book – from the overarching plot, to the characters and their motivations, and the general atmosphere that Rosamilia deftly generates – blends together perfectly. It’s an incredibly well-written and highly-polished title, with every element flowing together to create a book that I raced through in just over a day – something that I can rarely say happens these days, with a full-time job and a family to look after. Even the acts of extreme violence, degradation and general violation of social etiquette that take place – which often border on near-Splatterpunk in their descriptions – fit into the style and pace of the book, and are judged to perfection to ensure they don’t break the readers immersion.
This must be one of my shorter reviews on this blog, but for once that’s not because I didn’t enjoy Green River Blend, or had trouble reading it. In fact it was exactly the opposite – I can’t think of a book that I’ve enjoyed so completely in a very long time. I can’t find anything to criticise, or even nit-pick about, which perhaps makes this review shorter than it might have been if the book had been written by another author. Like the titular coffee brew itself, Green River Blend is the perfect concoction of supernatural, psychological and body horror, one that draws the reader in and refuses to let them go until they are addicted and don’t want to go anywhere. It’s perhaps fortunate that Mr Rosamilia has written two further books in the series, for otherwise I fear I’d immediately go into withdrawal symptoms; and, as Green River Blend demonstrates, that can only lead to bad things.