Vacationers is described on its cover as “A Tale of Extreme Horror.” This should be enough of a warning to give a reader with any sensitivities enough of a warning not to read this novel. I found little in the way of weird sexual description. A reader will not be put off by non-relevant passages describing gratuitous sex. The novel was written by the Barns Brothers with specific mention of Crowley Barns. Say that name over and over a few times. Vary the possible pronunciations. Did anyone come up with “crawly” as in slithering things? And crawly things that inhabit barns? But maybe I am reading too much into it. At any rate, this is a very weird book with lots of really weird violence. You have been warned.
Johnny Bloodlust (Really?? Who picks these names?) is going on vacation. He plans his vacations in a rather sloppy manner by using a world map and a dart. It doesn’t matter where the dart lands. He will go there. Why select a target a year in advance? This gives him time to pick up rudiments of the language and important cultural points. He doesn’t want to be noticed or stand out in a crowd as he goes about his hobby, killing people based on customized instructions from his boss. Johnny may wing it a bit as far as his vacation plans but his boss has carefully planned the kills that Johnny will perform each day of his allotted two-week vacation allowance.
Targets are not selected based on their worthiness to die. Revenge is not an issue. Johnny’s boss supplies him with several envelopes, one for each day. Johnny is to open one per day and select his victims based on instructions from his boss. One day the select menu might tell Johnny to commit a massacre. Another day there might be an instruction to make sure the victim dies by falling from a great height. Johnny just loves to kill and he appreciates the daily prompts from his boss. With only a prompt, Johnny is free to select a victim and be as creative as he wants.
Johnny has been doing this for years and his activities have not gone unnoticed by the FBI. There is even a special task force led by Special Agent Dina Carver. Her team is made up from local law enforcement of whatever country she is working in. For this novel, Johnny went to South Korea. Dina was aware of his choice. She arrived on scene perhaps a few steps behind Johnny. She immediately liaised with South Korean police officers so that she could hire a translator and ask for a team of detectives to help her. After getting past the usual resentments by local police of having foreign investigators foisted on them, Dina was able to acquire a capable, handsome, seductive translator/interpreter and two detectives whose main function was to imbibe alcohol at all hours of the day in any situation.
Dina is constantly checking with her home base trying to anticipate Johnny’s next kill. She mobilizes her team each day to investigate crimes and see if any of them could be linked to Johnny. Of course, she is always a few steps behind and Johnny is a very skillful assassin. The reader will be treated to some very weird staged murder scenes. So why is this novel not simply offensive? Because of the humor. Just as there are twisted violent scenes, there are a few “I-am-shocked-I-am-laughing-at-this scenes.” It is dark humor, gallows humor, and the type of humor cops banter about to relieve stress in unusual situations. I was a cop. Military careerists are in a similar situation. I retired from a career in the military. From this, I had the reaction of shock at some of the things I was laughing at. I was fascinated.
Here is a sample of the kind of humor that pops up between depictions of a kill. It is not as funny as when it is in context and unexpected, but this gives you an idea. Johnny is in a market in South Korea. His daily instructions have told him to kill a butcher who deals in dog meat. There are several of these, it will be Johnny’s choice. As he is surveying the market, Johnny becomes reflective:
“Taking in another sweeping view I felt so alive, so vibrant. I got one of those feelings — you’ll know the one I mean — where I kind of wished I had a samurai sword and I could just charge through, carving people up, slicing and dicing them, stabbing and charging and needling and gouging them. Slash Stab Slice Slash The market just had that kind of energy, you know?” (p.99).
As much as I liked the story, there were a few surprises and the off-beat humor was entertaining, I assigned an overall rating of only three stars. The humor intertwined with depictions of horror gives off a sense of acceptance of horrible acts if only the humor in those acts could be appreciated. From my experiences in more violent professions I understand the purpose of dark humor as people try to rationalize the horrors they are seeing. I feel this novel may send the wrong message to wannabe thrill seekers who look for publicity.