Sunday, June 19, 2011

Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso, Day One - June, 2011 CSFF Blog Tour

Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso
Published by Realms, Lake Mary, FL

Darkness Follows by Mike Dellosso is a novel that incorporates elements amenable to suspense: mystery, intrigue, and dark psychological intensity.

The setting is Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the battle site of the bloodiest conflict of the American Civil War and the greatest artillery barrage on the North American continent. The prologue introduces Samuel Whiting, a captain of the Union Army in his tent at the end of a bloody day of fighting. He is disillusioned about the cause of the war and the way in which it is being fought. He takes up his pen and writes in his journal. As he writes, the words come quickly and with ease though they are not ‘born of him, but of something else, something dark and sinister, something to which he had finally given himself.” (p 2) Captain Whiting detects a dark, shadowy presence in the tent with him, accompanied by a low moaning wind that snuffs out the light of his writing candle and leaves him in darkness. This establishes intrigue at the outset and contains the kernel that ultimately binds various threads together, although there are some threads left dangling.

In the first chapter, the scene shifts to modern day Gettysburg, and the night scene of Sam Travis who awakens from a bad dream that has terrified him. The only hint of what the dream was about is the mention of his brother and a shot, and Sam Travis’s post-dream recollection of a voice in the past, ‘You did what you had to do, son.’

Sam rises for a drink of water assuring his wife Molly that he’s all right. He checks on their seven-year-old daughter Eva, who is soundly sleeping in her room. Sam moves on to the bathroom were he splashes down his face with water and studies the scar on his face in the mirror. The scar signifies something happened, which has made the last six months very trying for the Travis family.

Then Sam Travis hears a voice from downstairs calling his name. He recognizes it as the voice of his dead brother, Tommy. Sam has been hearing Tommy’s voice quite a bit lately, “a hundred ghostly times since the accident that had turned his own brain to mush. The doctor called them auditory hallucinations.”

Later, a mystery figure comes into the book, who doesn’t know who he is and is a psychopath who finds it troubling that he feels no remorse or guilt for the murders he commits. He asks all his victims if they have ever seen him, or know who he is - there is none who does. He recollects on a variety of occasions a voice on the telephone giving him instructions as to what he is to do, but he doesn’t know whose voice it is though he is compelled to follow it. These instructions include something he is to do to Sam and Molly’s daughter, Eva.

There is a Senator who recently has had a conversion from the liberal principles of the Democratic Party and become a Republican making him the leading Republican presidential hopeful.

The Senator (whose name I withhold lest it catalytically gives away too much), Sam Travis, the mystery psycho, and Eva all come together in a climactic ending that leaves one scratching his head, until he continues on and reads the post-climactic chapters, which, for the most part brings satisfying resolution to the puzzlements.

One more figure, a character that Eva sees, but no one else, whose name is Jacob and informs Eva that her Dad is afraid and needs her prayers. After a time, Sam and Molly become more and more concerned about Eva’s conversations with Jacob (Molly overhears one) and Eva’s insistence that Jacob, who is ‘all shiny like someone dipped him in glue and rolled him in sparkles,’ (p 50) is real.

The intrigue builds on a variety of fronts, and centers around the dark and morose.

Molly’s childhood was marred by a verbally abusive father.

The mystery figure, stymied about who he is, dredges up images and conversations that help bring his past back, though it is all quite disconnected. His father beat his mother and raped his sister. A woman laughs at him, another shoots him. Eventually he realizes he was married and has a daughter. The knowledge of a daughter has the tendency to bring mild restraint to his otherwise unbridled, murderous rage.

Sam Travis recalls his childhood in bits and pieces throughout the story, revealing his horribly disturbed brother, Tommy, and a frightening secret. He finds mysterious entries in his own hand in his daughter’s composition book which appear to be the entries of Samuel Whiting, dated during the Battle of Gettysburg, expressing a continuing mental descent into a despondent and darkened abyss, and eventually, to a resolution to kill the President.

The story qualifies as suspense, but it has the feel of being rushed. There are many places where a slower development of a situation or character would have been an enhancement. As an example, much of what takes place in the first chapter comes too fast. A case in point is what comes on the second page of the first chapter where already, without preparation for the reader or transition, Sam hears the voice of his dead brother, Tommy. To me, it feels out of joint and awkward.

In only a few places did I like the writing. On the whole, I found it average. If I can follow through and post each day of the Tour, my aim on the second day is to discuss Dellosso’s writing in a little more detail, both the good and the bad, and identify things that I think were puzzling. On the third, I want to say something briefly about the ‘Christian’ nature of the book.

Participant Links
Mike Dellosso Website
Darkness Follows on Amazon

Thanks to Realms Publishing for kindly providing a copy of Darkness Follows for review on the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

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