"Ambrosia" Book Review

Written by Stephen McClurg

Published by Piper House

Written by Hamelin Bird
2024, 317 pages, Fiction
Released on January 16, 2024


While not quite bizarro, Hamelin Bird’s Ambrosia draws on elements I associate with it, including peculiar celebrity appearances and a genre-bending storyline. The cover suggests pulp horror, crime, romance, and even gives me slight Mandy vibes. The book delivers on this genre-mix, though without the psychedelic aspects of that film or the absurdity of bizarro. The back cover cites influence from authors Richard Matheson, Ira Levin, and Ray Bradbury. Among these writers, Levin's work, novels like Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, particularly resonate, as Ambrosia offers readers a page-turning plunge into conspiracy and romance reminiscent of '70s-style paranoid thrillers.

After a stint in the Navy and grappling with the recent loss of his alcoholic mother, Travis Barnes returns to his hometown for a fresh start. As if by fate, he stumbles into a string of small victories: reconnecting with old friends, meeting an intriguing love interest, and finding his old coin collection—now seemingly multiplied while nestled in attic shadows. He sees something in his mind’s eye, maybe something from his Naval past, and begins hearing a melody that leads him beyond the attic coins and into a literal jackpot. We know this trajectory cannot sustain itself for Travis. In a prior chapter, the reader meets Drexl Samson, a merciless government assassin; a mix of Rainbird from Stephen King’s Firestarter and any number of cold-blooded, intelligent killers in crime and horror. We know their paths are going to cross and when they do, it is going to be wet and ugly.

Bird opens the book with an epigraph from Aesop’s Fables, a reminder of the unpredictable nature of fortune. After reading the book, a speech in Macbeth came to mind: “The instruments of darkness tell us truths / Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s / In deepest consequence.” Here, Banquo warns Macbeth that the Weird Sisters, the three witches, while being correct in predicting the fortunes Macbeth has won, may be winning him over with the intent of darker betrayals. In Ambrosia, one version of the Weird Sisters is The Bureau, said to be formed from the destruction of Project Monarch and Stargate. However, The Bureau may be hiding something with abilities more powerful than their own. The difficulty for Travis is finding out who is on his side and who, or what, is the instrument of darkness.

Hamelin Bird’s Ambrosia is a fast and fun read combining moments of gore with the pacing of a paranoid suspence novel punctuated by spells of romance. The novel blends these genres while satisfying the expectations for a horror/sci-fi thriller.


Overall: 3 Star Rating Cover
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Buy from Amazon UK.

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Stephen McClurg
Staff Reviewer
No matter how hard he tries to focus on music, Stephen always gets called back to horror culture. The inciting incident is likely the night his grandmother cackled through his wide-eyed and white-knuckled first viewing of Jaws at three. The ‘70s were a different time. Over the years, he has mostly published poetry and essays, but started writing with a review section for the Halloween edition of the sixth-grade school newspaper. He rated titles like Creepshow with a short description and illustrated pumpkins. His teacher loved it, but the principal shredded the final version before distribution since all the movies were rated R.
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