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Summary

A novel set in the underbelly of upstate New York that's as hard-boiled and punchy as a swift right hook to the jaw, a classic noir for fans of James Ellroy and John D. Macdonald 

Isaiah Coleridge is a mob enforcer in Alaska - he's tough, seen a lot, and dished out more. But when he forcibly ends the money-making scheme of a made man, he gets in the kind of trouble that can lead to a bullet behind the ear. Saved by the grace of his boss and exiled to upstate New York, Isaiah begins a new life, a quiet life without gunshots or explosions. Except a teenage girl disappears, and Isaiah isn't one to let that slip by. And delving into the underworld to track this missing girl will get him exactly the kind of notice he was warned to avoid.

At turns brutally shocking and darkly funny, heartbreaking and cautiously hopeful, Blood Standard is both a high-tension crime novel and the story of a man's second chance - the parts of his past he will never escape, and the parts that will shape his future. 

©2018 Laird Barron (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“Massive, scarred Isaiah is a thug’s thug, but he’s also a well-read student of mythology. He’s indifferent to stab wounds and generates righteous mayhem in his quest. Fans of violent crime fiction will love this one and will be eager to hear more from Isaiah.” (Booklist, starred review)

“Laird Barron’s Blood Standard is stylish, witty, and stupendously entertaining, and it gives us a main character - Isaiah Coleridge, head-cracking classics-quoting half-Maori ex(ish)-gangster - who is entirely unforgettable.” (Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone)

“Rendered in icy strokes of prose, Laird Barron's Blood Standard is a remarkably self-assured crime novel - at once explosive and intimate, with a tightly wound plot and wonderfully realized characters. And then there's Barron's hero, Isaiah Coleridge. He's got a dead dog named Achilles and bits of Beowulf on his breath and in his teeth. Needless to say, there's not too many like him.” (Michael Harvey, author of Brighton and The Chicago Way)

What listeners say about Blood Standard

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Profile Image for Kyle
  • Kyle
  • 25-06-18

Well Played

Blood Standard beautifully fits Barron’s tone with all the grit and wit of his earlier work while holding on to the air dark mystery that I will always associate with him.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Ross
  • 19-06-18

Decent First Foray into Crime Fiction for Barron

...but I'd be lying if I said it didn't have it's problems. First off, let me say that I enjoyed this title, and Mr. Barron seems to have a great amount of potential for this type of writing. There are comparisons made in the description to Ellroy and Macdonald, and having read neither (something to correct, perhaps) I think I'd put it in the Walter Mosley/Joe R. Lansdale camp for frame of reference.
I mentioned some problems. The first thing I'll point out is the pacing. This one's a slow burner (although there are some pretty good action scenes). People unfamiliar with Barron's work in horror fiction might be surprised by how dreamlike this novel can be. Hard boiled for sure, but also deliberate and ponderous. Indeed, dreams seem to be something of a theme here and dream sequences even move the plot forward a couple of times. I'm a little tempted to call that cliche, but this is Laird Barron we're talking about so most of those sequences are quite good and more than a little haunting.
No, the problems come in the form of unexplored (or at least under explored) and kind of dull side characters. They each seem as though they came out of a Crime-Noir-Starter-Kit: The kindly old couple who takes him in, the angsty teen who dislikes our protagonist then vanishes, the bad@$$ ex military sidekick, the father our protagonist hates, the love interest, various and sundry mobsters, crime bosses, gang members, rinse and repeat.
And you know what? I was fine with all that. Until the resolution of the mysterious disappearance that drives the whole plot. I won't ruin it for you here, but that kind of blew it for me. I get subverting expectations, but that was just a bridge too far. Don't misunderstand me... it all adds up but just felt...lazy.
Okay, so, you've made it through my entire first review. Do I recommend the book? Yep. Yes I do. The main character works. The setting works, and Barron's prose, gift for turn of phrase, knowledge of somewhat geeky topics such as samurai and mobster movies, as well having his Classic myths and legends down pat kept me pretty invested. There are some great lines in there. And seeing as this is the first in what's supposed to be a series, I can't imagine Mr. Barron won't continue to improve his craft even if Book One isn't perfect.
PS: William DeMeritt did a fine job with the narration. I thought at first that his voice might get monotonous, but there was more than enough hard edge to it to make it work well with the material. And his character voices were all quite good and distinguishable from one another.

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  • Mark
  • 05-09-18

This one was OK

This one was OK, with enough twists and turns to hold my interest. It may have lost a little direction in the latter stages but I'm interested to see Laird Barron's next effort. With a bit more polish he has the potential to reach lofty heights as a story teller.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ia cust
  • 13-06-18

Great read

A well paced interesting story. Protagonist is a great antihero who is at his best during the worst situations he finds himself. I would like to see more of this character perhaps even in a prequel as the story hints at an even darker past. Stylized and witty throughout. The excellent narration adds another fantastic layer as well.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mitchell Strasner
  • 20-10-20

Great story

Story was great, there’s a lot of depth to the characters and twists turns to keep guessing.... good mystery and in-depth into thug life
Narration was so very good.

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  • Rich Tate
  • 24-06-19

The next great American mystery author.

If you love an old fashioned mystery and gallons of spilled blood, Laird Barron is your man.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Luke
  • 19-06-21

5 is the highest rating. So 5 it is.

The book is not what I was looking for, until I listened to it and found that it was exactly what I wanted, even though not exactly what I had expected.

I thought this was going to be more of a cop detective mystery with some horror elements. Should've paid closer attention. This cat's no rat, nor cop. Also, a stellar narrator who has a million different voices that all come so naturally. That was pleasant.

Anyway, story was great, characters great, doesn't glorify criminals but it does shine a magnifying glass on their world, and it ain't pretty. But Isaiah Coleridge doesn't take lightly the killing of innocents, and criminals don't appreciate this weakness in him. Oh well, he is much better on this side of the law anyway, or at least acting according to his own needs.

Listen to this one.

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  • Alex Sumner
  • 11-06-21

Great book, so so narration

I've enjoyed Laird Barron's horror stories and was looking forward to listening to his foray into hardboiled detective fiction, a favorite genre of mine. If you've read LB before, you'll know he's all about the slow burn. Small disquieting things happen to the main character as the story unfolds, accumulating and multiplying as it progresses, with tension and dread ratcheting up throughout, till it all comes together at the coup de grâce.

Blood Standard follows along those lines too. So rather than a classic murder mystery, it's more of a melding of elements from both genres. Isaiah Coleridge is the main character. We learn about his life as an enforcer for the mob, the fall out of his choices, where he ends up as a consequence and then, finally, the missing person element that sparks his investigation. When he starts digging into her life, looking for clues, he finds more than he bargained for.

I enjoyed the story a lot. Isaiah Coleridge's wit and erudite dialog is very amusing as he interacts with the other characters. The story itself is about many things. Organized crime, gangs, police corruption, medical duplicity, hillbillies, aryan nation, shady deals, the seedy underbelly of society, a wholesome horse ranch and Reba, the troubled teen that's mixed up in all of it that's gone missing.

Isaiah also has precognitive abilities that give him a bit of a heads up on how to handle the many dangerous situations he finds himself in. He sees warnings about individuals or events to come and has wild dreams that could be his mind's way of dealing with his subconscious issues. Or they're visions. Take your pick.

The narration. *sigh* I'm on the fence about it. (Probably spoiled by the last few books I've listened to that were awesome.) Not sure if William DeMeritt was new to narrating when he performed on Blood Standard, but he's not doing Isaiah justice. He has an excellent voice. Its deep tone is pleasant to listen to, but he lacks range, especially at the beginning. He starts out reading the story, instead of narrating it. There's no differentiation between descriptive sections and Isaiah's dialog which results in a lack of clarity as events unfold. Many of the characters exchanges (in Alaska especially) sound like all one voice, which leaves the interaction muddy and muted. There are sparks of vividness in Blood Standard, where everything comes alive, but that occurs well into the book. Much of the story blends together and unfortunately (and this is a total bummer) there's no timing to his delivery. So frustrating. Comedic timing. Dramatic timing. It's not there. A hesitation or a pause could've added a lot of impact to what's being said or enhanced the exchange, adding bite to a sarcastic comment. William DeMeritt's delivery is very workmanlike, so Isaiah's best wise cracks are read in the same cadence as the rest of the narrative, which was such a missed opportunity. I found myself wanting to say, Hey! Don't just throw the line away like that! The wise cracking PI is what makes hardboiled detective stories. (Also - grammar police warning! Lunge is mispronounced through the entire book. Reba lunged a horse several times at the farm in their lunge ring and Reba's grandmother is observed lunging a difficult horse there as well. Instead of saying 'luhnj' (to lengthen), William DeMeritt says lung, like the organ. Lung-ed, lung-ing, the lung ring, making me cringe every time.)

Laird Barron's writing is quick and intelligent with a lot of things being communicated subtly and overtly at the same time. It's a pity that's only glimpsed intermittently through Blood Standard. I guess this is an example of the difference between a good narrator and a great one. The potential is there for William DeMeritt. He has a lot of the elements already. He just has to up his game in the emoting department. Adding expression to the dialog, capturing the rhythm of the story and letting it breathe will make his narration a great listening experience. By the midway point to the end of the book he exhibited more range, with many of the characters that were vague at the start, now stepping off the page, crisp and distinct. Hopefully his performance keeps improving through the rest of the series.

Overall I enjoyed Blood Standard. It still has LB's signature disquieting horror elements (supernatural and mundane) mixed in with the grimness and stylish elements of hardboiled fiction. It's not a 'fun' mystery. It's more of a turning over the rocks and seeing what unpleasant things are exposed kind of story, with engaging characters, interesting scenarios and lyrical descriptions. I love his writing style and am happy there's two more stories available to listen to.

I'm on to the next book, Black Mountain.

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  • Rama N. Toulon
  • 28-03-21

Look out John Wick

Great story. Hard boiled with a bit of Taken and John Wick. Definitely will go down as a memorable characrter.

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  • It's Me
  • 13-08-20

A Hard Listen

This was hard to listen to for a couple of reasons. In general I liked the narrator's voice and characters but the pauses drove me nuts. I listen at 2x speed normally and adjust based the narration as I can't stand the normal slower than talking speed narration. This however was like read a sentence, pause way to long for dramatic effect and let it sink in, read the next sentence, pause for dramatic effect, read the next sentence, pause for dramic effect, and so on. If you think it was annoying reading that, listen to the book.

It's almost as if the author or publishing house said, we need to lengthen the time of this somehow and came up with the decidedly bad idea to lenghten the time between sentences. I don't know if it was due to my faster than 1x listening habits that contributed to the annoying nature of this or not but talk about distracting.

The story seemed to have its moments and was interesting but it also sometimes dragged in minutia in description that didn't further anything but probably added to the word count and therefore length.

If this was re-engineered to make the narration smooth it would probably be worth the listen. Instead my recommendation is to skip it. I will not be listening to any additional books in this series.