"Darling" Book Review
Written by Brad C. Hodson
2012, 386 pages, Fiction
Released on August 1st, 2012
Not all horror is created equal. When I started reading Brad C. Hodson's Darling, I thought I was in for a run-of-the-mill haunted building story. My error soon became apparent. Hodson has a unique way of constructing a story and pays a lot of attention to building tension. The scares are there, but they're made more significant by the pace at which they come.
Darling revolves around Dennis and Mike, a couple of friends who move into an apartment together. The men have very different personalities, but they get along very well and see the move as an opportunity to make things happen in their lives. The building into which they move, Raynham Place, is dark and creepy, but the apartment is huge and rent is cheap. After they move in, they start learning about the plethora of mysterious occurrences that have happened in their new building. As they struggle with their own demons, weird things happen and Raynham Place's sinister history begins to be revealed. Constructed on top of what once was a bloody battlefield, the edifice used to be a tuberculosis hospital, but that's just the beginning. As Dennis and Mike learn about the place, they also begin to have scary experiences. Whatever darkness inhabits the grounds is strong enough to show them things and threaten their sanity, but that's it. However, when an accidental sacrifice lets the evil presence loose, the local legends of ghosts, serial killers, and hellish black hounds will all become too real, along with many other vicious, bloodthirsty beings.
The first element that makes Darling a must-read is the careful, unhurried way in which Hodson creates his universe and builds tension. The characters all have real lives and issues, which are aggravated by being in contact with Raynham Place. However, the author steers clear of the classic scare-at-every-turn scheme and instead tells Dennis and Mike's stories while dropping occasional eerie visions and spine-chilling encounters. As readers, we know the place is wicked, but the knowledge comes more from the novel's atmosphere than from silly ghosts dragging chains through the hallways.
Besides the great way in which creepiness permeates the narrative, another enjoyable element of this story is that the actual scary, gory bits, when they show up, are out of the ordinary. Statues, an abandoned grocery store, dreams that mix sex and violence, a very descriptive scene about a car running over a dog, and a disturbing child who peeks from behind a washing machine in a shadowy basement laundry room are only some of the highlights here.
I've talked about buildup and atmosphere a lot, but don't fret: the crescendo does reach a finale akin to an explosion. The last portion of the book is a trip through hell, a shotgun-blasting, cannibalistic, flesh-tearing, scream-inducing horror fest that has enough carnage to satisfy true gorehounds.
Despite all of the above, the most impressive thing about Darling is that it's Hodson's debut novel. Besides taking you on a weird, gloomy trip, it'll also put Hodson on your radar and, in a genre full of new authors, that's quite an accomplishment.