Written by RD Ronald – The Zombie Room, RD Ronald’s second novel, is a story of friendship amidst gritty environs. Mangle, Decker and Tazeem’s friendship binds them together even after their release from prison. Lawful employment is difficult to find, so the trio band together and rely on small scams. But little swindles rarely stay that way in crime fiction and The Zombie Room is no exception. The ex-cons’ fraud leads them to uncover a much bigger criminal enterprise.
Roaming the fiction English city of Garden Heights, the three protagonists stumble across a smuggling and prostitution ring in a local strip club. Tazeem is convinced that Sadiq, his rival from pre-prison days, is running the operation. Tazeem enlists the help of Mangle and Decker, and the three set out to find the truth.
It isn’t easy, however. Prostitution at the strip club is fairly obvious. But the most heinous crimes are committed at a secret club which is only referred to as The Zombie Room. To bring down the crime ring, Mangle, Decker and Tazeem will need to find this secretive torture chamber and bring evidence of crimes committed there to the authorities.
Getting into The Zombie Room is difficult enough. Finding evidence and then finding an authority who isn’t involved in the web of corruption emanating from the human traffickers is even more difficult. Even the women being smuggled (Ronald never specifies the country of origin, but implies Russia) aren’t very much help. Because of a regimen of drugs and a brainwashing ‘audiology suite’, the women are kept tractable zombies. Only Tatiana, who is deaf, is impervious to the brainwashing, and she emerges as an ally for the trio of protagonists.
In chronicling the efforts of Mangle, Decker and Tazeem, RD Ronald delivers a shoot-’em-up that indulges occasionally in purple prose, but mostly brims with action. The author showcases harsh violence, but fails to provide an equal level of characterisation. Tazeem has a personal score to settle for the first half of the book, but the three protagonists are otherwise interchangeable. Ronald employs an intriguing plot twist when he reveals the identity of one of the villains, but none of the villains is that well defined. They all are simply evil and want to make money by selling refugees from Eastern Europe.
The Zombie Room’s climax will likely prove a surprise to readers. It is less clear whether it will prove satisfying. Nonetheless, you’ll want to keep reading until the end. Ronald keeps the pace of the novel moving briskly, the action never drags, and the trio’s frequent peril will keep readers in suspense.
Overall, this thriller is underdeveloped, but delivers plenty of action and a twisting plot to keep pages turning. Violence is ever-present, and the quick progression from one fight or shoot-out to the next does not leave much room for character development or dialogue, but it does ensure non-stop action. It is easy to see how The Zombie Room might end up the basis for an action film.
Book Guild Ltd.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars