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Hammers on Bone

(Persons Non Grata #1)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  2,646 ratings  ·  459 reviews
John Persons is a private investigator with a distasteful job from an unlikely client. He’s been hired by a ten-year-old to kill the kid’s stepdad, McKinsey. The man in question is abusive, abrasive, and abominable.

He’s also a monster, which makes Persons the perfect thing to hunt him. Over the course of his ancient, arcane existence, he’s hunted gods and demons, and broke
ebook, 68 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  2,646 ratings  ·  459 reviews

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Dan Schwent
When a kid tries to hire John Persons to kill his stepfather, the private investigator is intrigued. Persons quickly determines the stepfather isn't of this earth. Sometimes, it takes a monster to kill a monster...

This was a Netgalley find.

The combination of noir and Lovecraftian horror is a hard one for me to pass up so I jumped on this one straight away.

John Persons is a private investigator in London and not entirely as he seems to be. When young Abel shows up, Persons is intrigued and quick
Peter Topside
I was really intrigued by the premise of this story. It started out fairly well and even maintained a good pace, but I just didn't enjoy it much. I felt that important details of the makeup of these creatures and the environment weren't fully explained, and I often found myself not following what was going on. This is a very short story, and went back several times to reread certain sections, assuming I overlooked certain things, but to no avail. The characters were interesting, most notably Joh ...more
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010s, horror, reviewed
Imagine if you will that this:

meets this:

And yes, Elder Gods damn it, that is as amazing as it sounds. Lovecraftian Horror meets noir. There endeth the review.


Okay, okay, so I will say a little more. This is a beautifully written book. Now, when I say beautiful, I don't mean the finest prose of all time, I mean that Khaw captures the dialogue of classic noir better than any author I've seen writing past the 1930s. Take for example when our narrator meets his client (a young boy):

"Usually, i
I think I can read this kind of fiction forever. Like, literally 78 million years in the future, as an immortal intellectual bug, I will be reading this fiction.

To me, Lovecraftian horror is tops. Add a very solid Noir to it, a big of crunching bone and eyes everywhere, a case to solve, and I'm in heaven. Or some outer dimensional equivalent made of ice and regret and nostalgia.

Hardbitten PI meets tentacled horrors. Of course, he is one, too. :)

Highly recommended.
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Lovecraftian detective noir is such a cool idea.

PI John Persons has a new client, an 11-year old boy with the stink of eldritch horror on him. Persons can tell, he's very familiar with eldritch horrors, being one himself. The boy wants him to kill his step-father who is the monster in question; abusive physically, mentally and ultimately, supernaturally.

There's all the usual tropes of detective noir, particularly including the apparently innocent who are more than they appear. And of course all
K.J. Charles
Lovecraftian horror gumshoe noir set in contemporary London. As you do.

I enjoyed this a lot, unsurprisingly. Bristling with anger and violence and gory details and a sense of lurking horror, both cosmic and domestic. I felt there could have been a lot more made of it, as the core plot of a full length novel, but there's a sequel so it looks like the author is planning to expand the world. Fabulous cover.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting mix of elder gods and hardboiled/noir elements with some really evocative writing

The noise becomes a whisper, a hiss, a celebration, a roar, a black surf breaking on the glaciers of an old, decaying world. It sutures itself into syllables, strings of sounds that could almost be called words if you're feeling generous.

Instead, he extends his tongue, reveals a country of sigils delicately etched onto the red muscle. I don't recognize the language, but their greasy luminance is familiar
Michael Hicks
With Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw gives an old-school PI story a cool Lovecraftian update. There's plenty of old-school gumshoe narration (although the story is firmly present-day), along with a heaping dose of ancient gods and gritty mysticism. If this turns out to be the first in a series it is one I'll happily return to.

PI Joe Persons takes on what should be a simple job from an eleven-year-old client: kill the boy's abusive step-father, McKinsey. The appropriately-named Persons (you'll fi
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Please. You’re the only one who can help.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because you’re a monster too.”

This novella was a lovely surprise, although the word ‘lovely’ does in no way describe this dark tale. No, this is a horror story that takes the shape of detective fiction, and in particular that of a film noir. We have a private investigator, lone figure with hidden depths, who takes on a desperate job, that turns to be a lot more than he expected. Add to this that the horror aspect is Lovecraft
Alasdair Stuart
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The thing about Private Eyes is they have it easy. Collar up, hat down, mean street beneath their feet and they’re a fictional needle in a fictional groove. The perfect alpha predator protagonist able to do the best they can for the worst of reasons and come out the other side battered, crumpled but alive. And, somehow, looking cooler.
John Persons is a PI. He’s got the patter, he’s got the outfit and he’s got the mindset.
But John Persons has a problem. Two actually. The first is that his true na
L.S. Popovich
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
An unconventional noir novella with the distinct flavor of Mieville and Lovecraft, and a dash of hashtag Elder Gods mythos thrown in. Entertaining if a bit brief, and ecstatic if a bit forced, it is nonetheless a daring mishmash of fun otherworldly ideas.
Alex Bledsoe
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a sucker for noir crossover stuff. Using the pulp fiction detective form to tell horror, SF, and fantasy stories draws me in almost immediately. This is a trip into Lovecraft territory courtesy of a Hammett-esque PI who's actually an otherworldly monster possessing the body of a dead Londoner (I think; it's a little vague). He's all "dame" this and "kid" that, except in this case the "dame" is Shub-Niggurath and the "kid" isn't what he claims to be, either. I enjoyed almost everything about ...more
The Grim Reader
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The mythos created by Lovecraft so many years ago still resonates strongly with readers today. Some writers use the source material as a platform to create something new and original whereas others take a slightly more traditional route and choose to expand on Lovecraft’s original story ideas but sometimes at the expense of injecting any of their own personality into the story. The cover art sucked me into this one (haha). I think it’s great, and Cassandra Khaw’s writing is equally impressive.

Barb (Boxermommyreads)
Sep 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
While I enjoyed this book, I think I would have enjoyed it better had it been a full length novel. All the time I was reading it I kept thinking I had missed reading the first book and since there isn't one, I can only believe I needed more information to make the story work for me.

John Persons is a private investigator with a secret, he not only hunts monsters, he is one himself. So in other word, John Persons really isn't a person at all. One day he is approached by a young boy who wants him
Brandon Petry
This one is worth sticking with, even if the hard-boiled aspects don't float your boat at the start, this novella gets some interesting depth the more you read. And it was fun. I'm hooked and will be picking up the second book, A Song for Quiet, as soon as I see it. Tor is killing it lately with these slim novellas. I just finished the very strange (like I'm still not sure how I feel about it but I liked it) The Warren before picking this one up and next I think I will read Mapping the Interior. ...more
Review To Come

O.W.L.S. Magical Readathon 2020 -- Potions - Shrinking Solution: Read a book less than 150 pages


With this book, I completed my O.W.L.S. in the career of Potioneer. Yayy!
So many gross eyeballs in this, popping out of everywhere. *shudders*

I really liked this Lovecraftian private-eye story by Khaw. This story just had a swagger and attitude about it that I really loved. Yes, Khaw uses a lot of noir detective fiction tropes but it just works with the story and the Lovecraftian monsters. What pushed this over from a 3 star to a 4 star read for me was the prose. Khaw has a style that is really unique to herself. Where other authors write odd similes and metaphors that don't work in the scene or their writing style, Khaw just makes th ...more
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths.

Hammers on Bone is set in present day London and stars a mysterious detective, a creepy kid, and hidden horrors. Powerful, dark and filled with more than a few twists, this is a novella sure to excite fans of Lovecraftian noir.

Following along behind a loner named John Persons, readers are immediately sucked into the story when a young boy tries to hire this private eye to kill his stepfather, McKinsey. The kid explaining that some evil presence has infected McK
4.5 stars.
John Persons is a private investigator who lives in Croydon, London. At the beginning of the novella he is hired by a ten-year-old. The kid wants him to kill his stepdad, who is a monster.
Persons is perfect for the job, since he's a monster too.
Hammers on Bone is both a detective story and a discussion of domestic abuse, because more often than not we don't recognize the monsters in our lives.

It's not until I've clicked the door shut that I hear tiny feet scrabbling over wood, hear the
Received to review via Netgalley

Hammers on Bone is a fun novella which blends both noir detective fiction and something that looks to me like the Cthulhu mythos, though I’m not very versed in the latter. It drips with cliches in a way that works, because the main character is a man out of time — straight from hard-boiled detective fiction, despite the modern setting. The story draws you on with the mystery of what exactly John Persons is. It’s apparent from the beginning that he’s a monster, as
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-reads
Tor is KILLING it with these novellas! Cassandra Khaw's HAMMER ON BONE is absolutely amazing. I love her lavish descriptions, her evocative prose, the way she paints a horrifying picture and breaths life into it. I'd call it a desirable nightmare. Khaw's style is something I'd like to develop in my own writing. She really knows how to tell a great story. ...more
Alexander Peterhans
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun modern Lovecraftian horror story, inconsistently infused with noir style - Khaw seemed to regularly drop/forget it.

Not a huge pageturner, but entertaining enough.
Red Lace Reviews
It's not every day a ten-year-old child tries to hire John Persons, especially when the job involves the killing of said child's stepfather. Abusive, with a monster living inside his flesh, the target proves to be more formidable than first expected. But the hunt is on, and John, being a monster himself, is determined to stop the man. Him, and the spread of sickness that buries itself deep.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

My third title for the Ladies of Horror Fiction readathon, a
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Atmospheric Lovecraftian noir with a really tremendous eye for detail, which packs a lot of (horrible) content in a very slim volume. The one thing for which I deducted one star was that it follows a lot of noir in that the narrator is aggressively misogynistic--it's mostly the narrator, though I wished that the two kids hadn't both been male, as this ends up centring the story on male movers and shakers, with the two female characters relegated to background parts.
If you like Dashiel Hammett a
Dec 20, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars
I'd so love to give this 5 stars as the writing is amazing, the pacing is on point and the horror is vivid and creepy and Persons is wonderful in his in-betweeness state. But sadly there was also the typical noir PI dude misogyny. I'll still give the sequel a chance though and I think I'd love other works by this author without this perspective.
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I am not entirely sure I 'got' this one. I was entertained for its short page length, and even properly creeped out by the title's eventual emergence. But I really couldn't tell you what is going on here and there a lot of pieces left to this world's puzzle.

Sometimes this open ended style works great for me, this time just so-so.
Holly (The GrimDragon)
3.5 Stars~

Hammers on Bone is a hardboiled noir eldritch horror that subverts all the racist fuckery. Khaw tells an intense story about abuse & empowering victims. It's viscerally squishy, grimy & full of tentacles (and eyes!)

CW: Domestic abuse, child abuse, trauma, body horror, gore, assault.
Sci-Fi & Scary
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable. The MC reminds me a bit of Felix Castro. Love the Lovecraftian world it's built from.

This is 103 pages, full of wit and just absolutely disgusting body horror, and Lovecraftian without Lovecraft himself and all of that is great.
A grotesquely entertaining mash-up of hard-boiled PI noir and Lovecraftian lore. This cynical, wisecracking eldritch horror tale makes for a monstrous, disgusting, quick-paced novella. I thought it was fun.
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Cassandra Khaw is a senior scriptwriter at Ubisoft Montreal. Her next novella NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH is a haunted house story where messy people make really bad decisions.

Other books in the series

Persons Non Grata (2 books)
  • A Song for Quiet (Persons Non Grata #2)

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