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Falls the Darkness (The Glennison Darkisle Cases Book 4)

by Mark N. Drake

Rating: *****

Falls the Darkness opens with Private Detective Jack Glennison and his assistant, Josine, keeping busy in their Manchester office with routine cases after the horrors they witnessed on Darkisle at the end of 1922.

Their uneasy calm is soon disturbed when friend and Darkisle native, Lord Charles Deverby, requests their help to find missing man William Short, whom Deverby had hired to oversee land excavation to the north of the island in the hope of discovering more of the rare meteorites, known as “thunderstones”.  

Back to Darkisle it is for Glennison who soon realizes that Short’s disappearance is far from straightforward, especially as the animosity and volatility from the indigenous seem extreme even by Darkisle’s hostile standards…

What an exceptional series this is*, and Book 4 consolidates that opinion in abundance. The plot is the most accomplished and gripping yet, twisting and layered, it turns and puzzles with cleverly creative tangents and unexpected yet credible revelations. There is also a stronger sense of self-assurance not only in Glennison but in Drake’s writing. 

This subtle but unmistakable upswing in confidence yields a sharper, more single-minded narrative sprinkled with nicely understated gallows humor. Jack drives the investigation, he is more focused and secure in his abilities, yet shrewdly aware of Darkisle’s unearthly possibilities.

Indeed, the series has reached the seasoned stage where certain characters, settings, and contexts are known quantities but Drake is anything but complacent. The period, once again, is expertly mined for complementary detail and the dank, mythical air and topography of Darkisle grows ever more sinister; Glennison reawakened to its antediluvian power by Drake’s sinuously malevolent description of Deverby’s Katlu carving in Chapter 3.

Similarly, Thunstan Heath, where the otherworldly thunstanberry plants grow and the excavation is taking place, is a fantastic Lovecraftian/Wells mash-up albeit with what are now becoming Drake hallmarks. The gloss of science fiction, the atmospheric turmoil, and the unnerving sense of the plants undulating with eerie synchronicity are realized with creeping dread and horror.  

His characters, even those that appear to be on the periphery of the story, are brilliantly authentic and nuanced creations. Using distinguishing quirks and concrete observations that often suggest deeper complexities, Drake brings them all richly to life. 

Likewise, he always manages to ensure the Darkisle natives are convincing; pleasingly rustic yet sullenly suspicious without becoming caricatures. In Falls the Darkness they are even more baleful than those encountered previously, especially the two women, Feena Gorram and Emell Batty, who ooze with menace.

He gives us the new character of Beatrice Armitage, an Assistant at Oxford University. She is fairly central to Short’s disappearance and, as such, Drake plays a little with the reader’s presumption of her reliability. Notwithstanding, she is a breath of fresh air, and an intriguing dynamic springs up between her, Jack, and Josine which enables Drake to deftly sidestep a conundrum.  

Josine does not feature quite so much, but when she does, her one-liners are snappier and shot through with weary cynicism. Although still able to find events amusing, she has lost that sheen of girlish jauntiness from the earlier novels, which given her experiences, especially in Book 3, is an apt trajectory.

Throughout, Drake controls the plot superbly, introducing several side strands that blossom out, yet eventually have pertinence to Short’s disappearance. In places, Drake toys with Glennison, throwing him a couple of red herrings while giving the reader blink-and-you-’ll-miss-them hints that he might be heading in the wrong direction, although the final reveal wrongfoots pretty much everyone.

Another mesmerizingly good addition to the Darkisle canon. Superbly written, plotted, and imagined, Falls the Darkness proves impossible to put down. Highly recommended.

*Click here for my review of What Festers Within (The Glennison Darkisle Cases Book 3).

*Click here for my review of Those Under The Hill (The Glennison Darkisle Cases Book 2).

*Click here for my review of The Gathering of Shadows (The Glennison Darkisle Cases Book 1).

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