Title: Closed at Dark
Publication Info: Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014
Previously read by same author:
This novella by my college friend Rob Blackwell introduces a new series about Soren Chase, a paranormal investigator. This story combines parental fears of “stranger danger,” urban legends, and supernatural monsters to create an intriguing mystery thriller as Chase tries to figure out who – or what – is trying to abduct his long-time friend’s child. The characterization is a bit thin, but I expect it will develop as did the characters in Blackwell’s Sanheim Chronicles. We’ll find out soon when Soren Chase’s first full novel The Forest of Forever is released.
Title: Give the Devil His Due
Publication Info: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2013)
The third installment of The Sanheim Chronicles completes the story begun in A Soul To Steal and Band of Demons. As noted, the author is a friend of mine, so I may not be impartial, but on the other hand I was reading this while waiting for a bus and was so engrossed that I didn’t notice a bus had stopped right in front of me. The series continues to improve and it continues to change. These three books could be three different genres, and there’s a lot going on in just this one volume from Celtic mythology to the American Civil War. There’s imaginative world-building too as the characters proceed on an epic journey across the Land of the Dead. Blackwell also brings back a lot of good characters from earlier novels in unexpected ways, but I shan’t into detail lest it get too spoilery.
“It matters because words have power, and names have more than most,” Kieran replied. “It influences what we believe and that definitely matters. If we say the Land of the Dead is hell, and Sanheim is the devil, then we’ve already lost. How can we free a soul from a land where only the most evil and corrupted go in the first place? How can we defeat a monster that is evil incarnate? This is why Sanheim acts the way he does, why he no doubt tries to make the Land of the Dead seem like our conception of hell. Because it teaches people to accept their fate. They believe they are there because they deserve to be, and the creature that rules them is nothing less than an evil god.”
Author: Neil Gaiman
Title: The Sandman : Preludes & Nocturnes
Publication Info: Vertigo (2010), Edition: Reprint
This is the first collection of the legendary comic book series about Dream, the personification of dreams. In this story he his captured and held prisoner for 70 years, avenges himself on his captors, and sets forth to rebuild his kingdom. Gaiman’s writing is dark and Dream is cruel but still at times a sympathetic protagonist. The illustrations are rich and often gruesome but always effective. It appears with the groundwork set in this volume that the series could really take off from here.
Author: Rob Blackwell
Title: A Soul To Steal
Publication Info: CreateSpace (2011)
A couple of disclosures before I begin this review. First, I know the author as we went to college together and more importantly were both DJ’s at the college radio station, WCWM. Second, I’ve always been drawn to “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” – partly because I grew up 45 minutes from the town in New York (then known as North Tarrytown) and visited frequently – and the Headless Horseman is a prominent feature of Blackwell’s novel. The story is part crime novel, part thriller, part supernatural and an original amalgam of all the above. Set in a small town in Virginia, two reporters for a local paper Quinn and Kate have to deal with the return of serial killer who tormented the town a dozen years earlier. This would be bad enough but each character has personal demons to face as well, some of which appear in very tangible forms. There are a few flaws to the book as events transpire and relationships form far too rapidly to be believable. I also wonder why when Quinn runs a journalist’s writings through software that can help identify the author why he doesn’t do the same with the letters of the serial killer Lord Halloween (other than that the mystery would have been solved a hundred pages earlier). These flaws can be overlooked though because this book really is a page turner and has moments of being very unsettling and very humorous. The ending promises a sequel that I forward to reading.
Recommended books: The Dark Half by Stephen King, The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen, and Capitol Hell by Joseph M. Pendal.