Bryan Smith delivers on virtually every front with this homage to all things '80s slasher films. A relentless killer with a traumatised past, a host of unlikable characters ready for the taking/stabbing/strangling/decapitating/etc, and a bunch of clueless law enforcers doing their best to stop the madman before Halloween comes round, are all present for this "fun" trip down serial killer lane.
Smith paints his story with effortless, graceful prose that almost seems too good for the subject matter. But assuming this type of book is your cup of tea, you're all but guaranteed to enjoy yourself. The gore is plentiful, the kill count is high, and the breaking of the narrative with flashback chapters to paint the picture as to why the killer became what he is, works particularly well.
Perhaps the one area All Hallow's Dead does fall down in, however - both as an ode to the '80s slasher and as a strong book in its own right - is with the lack of a "final girl", or indeed any major protagonist to root for. Instead, the closest thing to heroic characters which Smith presents are an overweight sheriff who takes a heck of a long time to get anywhere with the case, a previous tormentor of the killer who ends up spending most of the page count tied to a chair, and a woman from the killer's past who does little more than talk the final girl talk, rather than walk her walk.
The killer's plans for revenge aren't exactly well thought through either. The bullies who tormented him the worst are dispatched far too easily, while the one that showed him a modicum of humanity is treated to the worst of what takes place. I can buy that the killer is deranged and prone to irrationality and impulsiveness, but I found him difficult to buy into when the very point to his motivating plan is so warped.
Nevertheless, this is a quality read from one of the best in the business going about his business in a reliable way. Don't wait for next Halloween, get this one ASAP!
3.5 Blood-Spattered Machetes for All Hallow's Dead.