Hungry horde

The Return Man, by VM Zito, Hodder & Stoughton, RRP£11.99, 416 pages

The horde of zombie novels shambles on, growing in number day by day. One wonders how much longer this genre can carry on before it cannibalises itself. In the meantime, we have The Return Man, a fresh variation on a theme.

Zito’s novel, highly accomplished for a debut, is set four years after an outbreak of zombie-itis has reduced half of the United States to an apocalyptic wasteland infested with the hungry undead. Henry Marco is the Return Man of the title, roaming Arizona putting reanimated corpses out of their misery and laying some personal ghosts to rest along the way.

Marco, accompanied by a Chinese secret service agent with a hidden agenda, is dragooned into taking part in a mission that might yet save America.

What follows is a non-stop action ride, full of lovingly described gore and moments of agonising tension. Visceral in every sense – sinewy prose, gutsy violence – it’s bloody excellent.

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