Monday, May 6, 2013

Want Summer Chills? Read The Darkling by R.B. Chesterton

The Darkling
Author R.B. Chesterton
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In the 1940s, Coden, Alabama was a hideaway for movie stars - an isolated playground tucked among live oaks and placid bay waters where pleasure and vice could be indulged. By the summer of 1974 Coden''s glamour has faded, but it doesn't bother Mimi Bosarge, who is just happy to have a job as a live-in tutor with the wealthiest family in town, the Hendersons. When the Hendersons generously open their arms to Annie, a troubled teenager with no recollection of her past, Mimi's greatest concern is creating a curriculum for the family's new ward.But it soon becomes obvious that something is wrong. Annie seems suspiciously savvy for her young age, and Mimi can't quell the unnerving sense that there is something malicious about the waiflike beauty.

Review: Whew-eee! It takes a lot to make me shudder, but this book did just that! I guarantee The Darkling will give you goosebumps on the warmest of summer days. Probably not the best bedtime read, unless you want some seriously creepy dreams. The southern setting coupled with a mystery and predatory evil makes it beautifully macabre. The story preys on universal fears and makes use of horror culture, such as the woods, monster under the bed and the timely arrival of an innocent stranger. It might sound cliche, but what makes this novel special is how the events are delivered, through the girth of character. Writing a good horror is harder than one might think (hence, why some end up almost humorous). The author must be aware of what scares people and why. Tension and timing is fundamental and withholding just enough to let the imagination provide the special effects is essential. Lack in these areas and the horror fizzles. Chesterton proves to be an expert and delivers a chilling tale that makes the reader think twice about going for a nice walk in the woods after dinner. 

The woods? Really? Everyone knows that something is going to happen, right? You may think you know what is coming, but a few twists might prove any skeptic wrong. Suddenly, every place and every person night or day, is fair game. How does Chesterton manage this? By understanding what ultimately  frightens people. In this case, fear of being loved, control, helplessness, powerlessness and insecurity. Here, the thematic horror runs deeper than any ghastly gore splattered on the wall. It's the threat of undoing that is terrifying and I believe most readers will relate. If you were gleefully disturbed by or got the 'willies' from the horror movies The Omen or Orphan (Eeesssttteeerrr), then The Darkling is right up your dark alley.

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* ARC provided by Pegasus courtesy of NetGalley

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