by Mark N. Drake
Jack Glennison has tried his hand a couple of occupations with varying success, and so having been discharged as a soldier following the end of WWI, he decides to put his skills to use as a Private Detective. When Mrs Josine Randall enlists his help to find her missing husband, Glennison believes this to be a run of the mill case. However, when he has to travel to the forbidding island of Darkisle, the case takes a sinister and supernatural turn…
I thought The Gathering of Shadows was an excellent debut; Drake nails the genre perfectly. There is an immediate reassurance in the quality of the writing. The opening was perfectly pitched; textured, intriguing and the prose has a slightly archaic air which thoroughly complements the narrative and the time in which the story is set. Drake has also been careful to include some lovely period detailing which lends the entire book a credibly authentic feel. There are a number of old-school horror techniques used; first person narration, journal entries, a strange island with even stranger inhabitants, a group of strangers collecting in a semi-derelict, rambling old mansion cut off from civilisation, etc.. All these elements and more are used to good effect and yet feel fresh. I did think the events and horror at Kellstone Hall could have been taken further; there was a slight lack of confidence at times in really pushing the fear onto the reader but that is understandable in a debut.
Jack Glennison is a more than an able main character; likeable, self-effacing yet capable and with some intrigue in his background. I liked the Lovecraftian references; there were not too many and Drake undoubtedly makes this his own novel; it is not a Lovecraft pastiche. I actually thought the writing lent itself more toward Poe and M. R. James with a whiff of Agatha Christie. The story is believable, interesting and not too complex or far-fetched. Some of the strands are a touch obvious but this did not spoil enjoyment and Drake has structured the book excellently in terms of pace and exposition, momentum was maintained with some really good set-piece scenes and, consequently, reader interest.
Aside from Glennison, all the characters are well-realised and the dialogue was especially convincing. I also liked the subtle thread of humour that ran through some of the exchanges and internal monologues. The fictional island of Darkisle was brilliantly depicted; darkly atmospheric with a creeping sense of ominous foreboding and I am pleased to note it will be used in future Jack Glennison investigations which I shall not hesitate to read.
The Gathering of Shadows in an intelligently written, well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable, traditional style horror/mystery. Highly recommended.