Through A Glass, Darkly
by Bill Hussey
Format: Paperback, 440 pages
Publisher: Bloody Books
With the spate of excellent first novels I have recently reviewed here including names such as Joe Abercrombie, Adam Nevill and Scott Sigler (not to mention Joe Hill’s fantastic first short story collection) it would hardly be surprising if the latest debut novelist, to cross my path, failed to reach that same high standard. What is amazing then is that not only has Bill Hussey reached the quality of the other debut authors mentioned but if anything, he has surpassed them. In each of these previous novels I have picked out what I thought was the defining feature which made it a stand out, so with Abercrombie it was solid, interesting characters with Neville it was his sense of place and with Sigler it was his visceral horror. Bill Hussey somehow manages to include all these elements with an incredibly, thrilling, horrific, ingenious and intriguing plot, for an established writer it would be an achievement for a debut it is astonishing.
Jack Trent and Dawn Howard are CID officers and former lovers who are put back together to investigate a case of child disappearance. Jack, however is no ordinary police officer, following childhood traumas he is now subject to visions, dreams and other feelings which he doesn’t understand. The pair head off to Crow Haven (an “unquiet place”, “existing in a vacuum”) a marvellously described, off the map, village and are soon embroiled in a mystery that threatens not just their lives but the very foundations of good versus evil.
One of the stories strengths is the plotting and the different layers that are found within. There are plotlines involving relationships between partners, parents and children, within the police service and within the Church. Plotlines examining the nature of evil, child abuse, the occult, the meaning of faith. All tied up in a race against the clock to stop the evil which permeates Crow Haven.
The town of Crow Haven and the (for want of a better word) bad guy – the crowman are fantastically drawn. Who isn’t unnerved by scarecrows (second only to clowns) but this crowman is no scarecrow come to life he is much darker than that and the attendant crows representing that darkness create an embodiment of evil which you can almost smell. The Priest, Asher Brody, should be a hero but his past mistakes have led, at least in part, to the current tragedy so he is a flawed hero. Trent himself has a duality which is unnerving, there are certainly no clean cut hero’s here. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the library, but that’s a whole book in itself.
The entire story is drawn together by an ancient occult text “The Transmigration Of Souls” and Bill Hussey has put a lot of work into the backstory of this text as well as it’s influence on the various characters. Some of this backstory is told in a form that reads almost like an old gothic ghost story adding yet another layer to the levels of the book. The only flaw I can find, in fact, is the introduction of important parts of this backstory two thirds of the way into the book, this does cause the pace to slow from what was a roaring steam train up to that point, but the slowdown is only temporary. Its straight into the station to pick up some new information then shovel on the horror to get back to top speed.
So Bill Hussey has done a remarkable job. He has created a frenetic thriller, a dark occult mystery, a love story and a no-holds barred, teeth clenching horror story. Each on it’s own would have been an achievement put them all together and you have a standout. If there was any justice in the world this would be a bestseller mixing with the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz in the charts. I am really looking forward to seeing how Bill Hussey is going to improve on the quality of “Through A Glass, Darkly” but then he doesn’t really have to, just keep more of the same coming and I’ll be happy.
In short if you like horror buy this, if you like thrillers buy this, if you like gothic ghost stories buy this, in fact, tell you what, if you just like books, buy this!
Rating 4.5 out of 5