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Spotlight on: Casket for Sale (Only Used Once) by Jeff Strand

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Casket for Sale (Only Used Once) by Jeff Strand Jeff Strand, Casket for Sale (Only Used Once) (An Andrew Mayhem Thriller)

Andrew Mayhem seems to have learned his lesson. He has stopped taking money from strange women in coffee shops to do vague odd jobs, has resolved to be more responsible, and has even gotten a (gasp!) real job. After the adventures chronicled in his previous two books (Graverobbers Wanted (No Experience Necessary) and Single White Psychopath Seeks Same), a vacation is in order, but he just cannot seem to stay out of trouble. That is unlucky for him, but lucky for us, because Jeff Strand's Casket for Sale (Only Used Once) is another terrific blend of humor and horror.

This time the trouble is not really Andrew's fault, however. With his wife Helen, and their two children Kyle and Theresa, along with Andrew's friend Roger and his new girlfriend Samantha (who Andrew despises, though he doesn't know why) along, he made sure the camper's gas tank was full, and he even heeded the mysterious warning from the old man at the "Last Chance 4 Gas" station ("I want to check the expiration date on their beef jerky," Roger quips. "I'm guessing late eighties.") that Wreitzer Park (their chosen destination) is full of "bad, dangerous, and deadly elements."

After some argument that perhaps Andrew is being too responsible, they decide to turn back the way they came, but after about two miles, their passage is hindered by a green truck parked in the middle of the road. Soon after discovering that the truck does not intend to move, and that Andrew is going to have to drive the camper backwards until they get to another turnaround point, they are blocked at the rear by another green truck.

Looks like those bad, dangerous, and deadly elements weren't at Wreitzer Park, after all. It is just as they find out that the denizens of these oddly similar vehicles are named Ghoul, Troll, Goblin, Ogre, and Witch, that Andrew realizes that he has, despite his best efforts to the contrary, gotten his loved ones mixed up in yet another misadventure, one that will cause him to experience paralysis, limb loss, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a cyborg!

Echoing the choice to show Roger's side of the events chronicled in Single White Psychopath Seeks Same, Helen gets her turn at the keyboard in Casket for Sale (Only Used Once), and it is much more successful this time around. Helen is the most fascinating discovery in this novel; her turns in the previous chronicles consisted primarily of responses to Andrew's ineptitude, but here she comes to full flower, as the newly pregnant mother is forced to protect her children from a high-class killer dressed in red and named Medusa somewhere in the wilds of Georgia.

Casket for Sale (Only Used Once) offers the most intense time I have had reading a novel in years -- and I didn't think it could get more intense than some of the scenes in Single White Psychopath Seeks Same! If it weren't for the consistent thread of humor that runs throughout, and often helps to break the tension, that intensity would, I think, have been overwhelming. From the myriad scenes of torture to a mind-boggling drug experience involving a near filicide to an escape from a moving truck filled with modified corpses (a true white-knuckler!), Strand has let it all hang out in this final (say it ain't so!) appearance from Andrew Mayhem.

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