Faces in the Fire is a quick and intriguing read in which T.L. Hines very deftly conveys his sense of “noire bizarre” around a curious set of characters, bottom-feeders he stresses, in a nonlinear progression. The characters, a truck driver, an email spammer, tattoo artist and hit man are equally as disparate as the circumstances around which they they cross paths; phantom catfish, haunted shoes, mystical tattoo ink, and a mysterious phone number all contribute to the progression of each character’s interconnected lives.
Hines doesn’t quite offer enough noire to the level out the bizarre. True, it’s a dark and suspenseful enough story but the characters, possessing a sense of anxious desperation, come off as more emotionally exhausted than perhaps darkly humorous or energized. Particularly memorable, though, is Hines’ characterization of Corrine the spammer; he delicately describes a profession and person not normally considered worthy of anything but detest. Hines uses an interesting metaphor of representing the characters’ movement as that of sharks, creatures that can never move backward, but rather only forward in pursuit of their catharsis from years of missed opportunity.
Faces in the Fire is a mysterious and entertaining work which makes the reader think long after the read is finished. Which is, I think, the sign of a well-crafted book.