In a perfect world, Rufo would be the first name out of the gate from the lips of horror fans when asked to identify the spookiest clown they know.  Alas, since we live in Stephen King’s world, you could easily bet that King’s, Pennywise, forever immortalized in his novel, It, would easily win that race.   Then, after some serious reflection, I would say our old childhood pal Bozo The Clown, would place second, which leaves Rufo The Clown coming in a distant but respectable show of third.

But that’s a shame really, because Rufo is so much scarier than Bozo ever was, and he could certainly give Pennywise a run for his money in the killing and torturing of little kiddies department.

Rufo The Clown had his first starring role in James A. Moore’s epic novel, Serenity Falls, finishing up the last third  (called Dark Carnival, book 3, in the paperback version) with one hell of a violent, gruesome, and very fiery catastrophe.  But as captivating as Rufo was in book 3, Dark Carnival was more Jonathan Crowley’s story than Rufo The Clown’s.  So at the suggestion of a friend, Moore decided to give Rufo his own turn in the spotlight.

So now, with Smile No More arriving on the world’s doorstep, both Bozo and Pennywise best be damned-well looking over their shoulders, because Rufo The Clown has come back to town after his Serenity Falls debacle and it becomes apparent very quickly, that Rufo’s got an awful lot unfinished business to take care of. And it involves killing a whole bunch of people in the most brutal and horrible way’s he can imagine.

Smile No More is the follow up to last years Cherry Hill, and faithful readers of Moore’s work will discover that the two books couldn’t be any more different in content as well as  stylistically.  As we start Rufo’s adventures in Smile No More, we notice that the narrative is broken down into three distinct sections.

The first takes us down memory lane, highlighting Rufo’s past as a teenaged side-show clown and escape artist. Moore employ’s a first person narrative so we learn first hand of the future Rufo the Clown’s abandonment of his family, his subsequent search for his sister, his fiery death, his escape from the ennui of purgatory, and of the benefactor who returned him to human form.

The second is also a first person narrative, this one with Rufo discussing his present day adventures as he tracks down the members of a modern circus who have, or have knowledge of, someone who has harmed a member of his family.  Using methods that are well suited to his undead talents, Rufo walks us through his unique interrogation methods, and the thing with Rufo is, it doesn’t matter whether you tell him the truth or not during these interrogation’s, the end result remains the same.

The third narrative consists of various stage hands, actors, and detectives that are dealing with the aftermath of Rufo’s murderous investigations, revenge killings, and bad skin days.  These characters bring a semblance of sanity to the gristly proceedings as well as some sexual tension to the plot (who doesn’t love to read about beautiful lesbians?).

Those familiar with Moore’s Serenity Falls series and his various Jonathan Crowley stories will find Smile No More delightfully entertaining and discover it exceeds all of their expectations.   Only not in the fashion they thought it would.

Crowleyis little more than a mention in Smile No More.   His character is used only as reference for back story.  So, for those looking for more adventures about “The Hunter”, they won’t find it here.  This is Rufo the Clown’s story, and readers will be glad for it.

And, be prepared for a change in the narrative’s voice.  With its predominance of first person narration and its emphasis on very dark subject matters, Smile No More bears more than a passing resemblance atmospherically with noir themed novels.  Rufo’s tough guy persona, his seeming flippant attitude masking a fierce determination in his investigatory work, and most importantly the melancholic feel Moore brings to the story all give Smile No More an old black and white movie from the 40’s type vibe.   And like the best of those old movies, the reader’s imagination provides all the color needed when wondering how red a clown’s nose might be, how dark the blood spurting from a severed limb is, or if there is a noticeable difference in opacity regarding someone’s intestines if half of them are still located in a persons body cavity while the other half is hanging out of a window on the upper floors of a large building with a clown swinging wildly about on them.

If you are looking for one heck of an entertaining novel chronicling the adventures of an  insane, undead, vengeful, smart ass clown who not only is a serial killer but quite the inventive torturer and child killer to boot, then look no further than Smile No MoreSmile No More is a bloody, entertaining, and brilliant work of dark fiction that is destined to become another classic from one of the great horror authors of our time.  If you can find a copy of Smile No More (it’s been sold out almost since it’s been announced) I highly recommend you pick it up.

About TT Zuma