A Stalled Ox by Dean Moses

Layout 1A disaster has struck mankind. A disease has swept across the world killing all livestock and science has been unable to find a solution. Even household pets find themselves eaten to near extinction. Some think this is a sign of the end times and religious fervor is at a high.

Agent Howard and his partner Linda, employed by a group known only as The Agency, are sent to investigate a self-proclaimed God whose cult has a plentiful supply of meat. They pose as a married couple and new followers disenchanted with the world to infiltrate the church and find out where they are getting the meat.

The three major characters in the book are all fascinating. The author gives them depth and interesting back stories. Howard is fallible and filled with doubt. Linda has a tough exterior but an inner vulnerability. The agents are a good team, with Howard emotional and prone to reacting and Linda more pragmatic and calculating. The church leader, God, is a powerful and charismatic leader who’s put together a congregation of hundreds in a giant complex. At the same time he is cruel, violent and unpredictable. We find there is so much more to him beyond his Godhood and the way he became God.

The intrigue behind the church is the hook in this book. It’s really captivating. The author has created a new kind of dystopian future filled with shadowy government agencies and potentially just as shadowy private organizations. Then we have those looking to religion in desperate times, wanting something to believe in. The combining factor for all of them is the hope of bringing order to the new world.

There is a very dark world below the surface of the church and its meat mystery. You’ll find imagery that Clive Barker would be proud of. There are moments of intense visceral horror along with the more subtle intrigue. There are some wonderful twists in this book that you can’t help but be surprised by and enjoy. This is a fantastic story and I can’t wait to see what author Dean Moses comes up with next.

9/10

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Book Cover Blurb:

An isolated religious cult has reportedly been consuming meat while the rest of the planet has been forced to live a life without it. Presuming this sect has resorted to cannibalism, two agents from an organization known simply as The Agency are dispatched to investigate. Will they find evidence of humans eating one another? Or is something even stranger taking place?

“In the tradition of Serling and Bradbury, A Stalled Ox is a gruesome, yet beautiful story that wraps a complex morality tale in an engaging and fast-paced horror story with a touch of espionage. Crafting a world where no one is truly innocent, Moses invites the reader to follow Agent Howard Harrington as he discovers what true evil is.”