The Coogan Curse


Wolf on Coogan Reveiw Excerpt“She heard the guys yelling about somethin’, but thought nothin’ of it. They was always at each other. Other than that there was nothing unusual. Said even the chickens was quiet.” White-haired, paunchy, veteran Sheriff Wylie O’Shea waddled along beside Kurt as they came to the barn door and stopped. “I guess you’ve seen gruesome before.” He held the door open.

Kurt kept his eyes on the frozen earth as he slid past O’Shea and into the barn. When he looked up, it was dark, and it grew darker still when the sheriff let the door close behind them. Small wings flapped somewhere above the hayloft. A hoof stomped on hard clay to his right; there was a snort. He unconsciously steeled himself for stench, but icy air was the only smell.

Then the sheriff found the light switch.

In the yellow glow of a single hundred-watt bulb, three faces looked back at Kurt, all from severed heads. One was mounted on the handle of a pitchfork leaning against a stall. Another was wedged into the hayloft ladder. A third dangled from the end of a rope tied from a rafter. The eyes were open, looking nowhere, the mouths twisted. On the floor, human flesh, limbs, and organs lay scattered about in frozen straw.

Kurt realized he was clenching his fists along with the rest of his body and tried to relax. He turned to find Wylie O’Shea staring at him. The sheriff shrugged, then looked off into the dark part of the barn.

Kurt crept to the head on the rope. After a moment he made out the visage of Bob Tillson, age sixty, a farmer. The rope had been nailed to the top of his skull. After he was dead? Kurt hoped so. He looked at the sheriff. “Now we know our killer is human.”

“Not by my measure.”

“It took human hands to mount the heads.” Kurt pointed. “And Bob’s was cut off, not torn.” He leaned closer to the severed skull. “A knife, I’d guess, and pretty sharp.”

“Whatever it was didn’t have no human soul,” Wylie said quietly. “And there’s teeth marks ever’ place… claw marks too. Big ones. That ain’t human.”

Kurt visited the other two skulls, then returned to the sheriff’s side. “They’ve been dead a while. Maybe eight hours or so.”

“Thing probably got in here when it was dark,” Wylie said. “It was prob’ly waitin’ when they come to work this morning.”

“And turned invisible when it was finished?”

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Professional Review

The Coogan Curse: A Kurt McBride Mystery

Reviewed by: Barbara Miller

What’s a Coogan? That’s the country named after a family patriarch who was one of the area’s most famous pioneers. “He built the bridge over the Missouri River, started the bank, gobbled up most of the good land. He left his heirs more money than they could count and a reputation for running roughshod over anybody who got in their way,” said Kurt McBride, a Chicago based District Attorney returning to his hometown to finalize his deceased mother’s estate. Now there seemed to be a return of someone –or rather something – believed to be finished back in th 1960’s – known to locals as The Coogan Curse.

When a couple was found mutilated on “Lover’s Lane” – with their limbs brutally torn from their bodies, teeth marks, knife cuts and dismemberment beyond merely a human assault, visiting Chicago Assistant District Attorney Kurt McBride is thrown into the mystery as he involuntarily begins to help the locals and police investigators solve the murder mystery. Yet the murders continued. A farmer was found victimized in extraordinary ways, again with savage brutality and a perplexing twist; his head being cut with a knife and mounted on a post, something a beast such as a wolf or wild animal wouldn’t do. A girl in her twenties was found in the trunk of her car, mutilated. Then others found dead with more nauseating remnants of violence; it became strikingly clear something beyond ordinary was going on.

Author Larry Long did an excellent job creating character development with his heavily laden use of dialogue, articulation of credible small town attitudes and interlacing history amidst the current events. He took this “Andy of Mayberry” type of situation and juxtaposed it against Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone mixed with some of Stephen King’s flair of a super-natural killing mystery. Good writing, when done well, looks easy; and this book read easily from the start, keeping one’s interest while the plot unfolded at a never-boring pace. The Coogan Curse is filled with a slew of characters of people from Kurt McBride’s past. Cast with many of his past acquaintances, family and friends of family, high-school kids now grown, as well as the onslaught of the law enforcement officials taking the forensic evidence and cultivating their case, The Coogan Curse sets the reader on a twisting course with more loose ends pointing in more different directions than pine needles on a pine tree. The usual suspects were suspected but each seemed to have proof they didn’t do it – which was as important as clearing them from the suspect list. Then came the bigotry of racial profiling from hillbillies, Latinos, and “half-breed Indians” and even terrorists were all quick to judge — yet again it became easily apparent they were not the killers. The mystery was believed to be “The Curse” as it was called by the locals. But Kurt McBride didn’t believe in curses.

This book is an absolute must for all mystery readers! If I were to give out stars, Larry Long would surely get 5 out of 5 for his masterpiece creation. The Coogan Curse is a perfect balance of action, dialogue, character development and intelligent mystery writing blended into a modern-day thriller that will keep the pages turning until you realize there are more pages in your left hand than your right, and you’re still not sure where the ending will bring you. It is well suited for screenplay adaptation for a movie as well as a book series of the Kurt McBride’s character.

Larry Long has created a book worthy to be your companion on a trip, a vacation, or just by a chair at home. Well suited from young adults to seasoned mystery and suspense readers, it has something for everyone within the credible characters that are truly the fabric of our small town communities, and how they come together to ward off evil.

Barbara Miller

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