- Paperback: 322 pages
- Publisher: Grey Matter Press; 1 edition (6 November 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1940658985
- ISBN-13: 978-1940658988
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 558 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
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Devouring Dark Paperback – 6 Nov 2018
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“Devouring Dark is a thrilling mix of crime and horror, a book that somehow defies either description yet embraces both. It moves like a juggernaut, thundering towards an intense, emotional conclusion. I devoured Alan Baxter’s dark; you should too.” – Gary McMahon, author of Pretty Little Dead Things
“Devouring Dark is a powerful tale of crime and death, cleverly crafted and flawlessly executed. I’m a fan of Alan Baxter and Devouring Dark is a perfect example of why. Do yourself a favor and join me for some shivers.” – James A. Moore, author of Seven Forges and the Serenity Falls Trilogy
“Action-packed yet emotionally resonant, Devouring Dark held me to the last page.” – Kaaron Warren, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of Tide of Stone
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I was expecting much the same from Devouring Dark, and whilst I certainly wasn't disappointed, there is plenty of the above, what I found was something deeper, more involving and ultimately even more satisfying than his previous, very entertaining novels.
The main protagonist is a fairly unassuming guy with a dark power that is slowly killing him, fairly standard stuff for this genre. However Baxter then weaves that with second protagonist with something similar but coming from an entirely different place, a palliative care nurse helping people exit this life and taking a little bit of their passing with her. Add in a gangster who is convinced he isn't one, a sprinkle of other characters who are anything but cardboard cutouts, and you have a thoroughly entertaining and somewhat disturbing tale.
As a bonus, my copy included the Australian Shadows Award winning short story Shadows of the Lonely Dead. This is the prequel to Devouring Dark and it was interesting to see where the original idea came from and where Baxter took it from there.
Baxter has taken a step forward with this novel, it offers something deeper and more profound than his previous works.
This book is characteristic of Alan Baxter's signature efficient prose. the action is fast and relentless, threatening to derail whatever well-laid plans you had through involuntary page-turning.
His descriptions of the "dark" are nothing short of visceral, the action sufficiently gory and all-too-easy to picture. The main characters all three-dimensional enough that the reader can understand (If not necessarily agree with) their motivations. Well worth the brief time it takes to surge through the pages.
This novel is a continuation of a short story appearing in Alan's anthology Crow's Shine. It's not necessary in the least to have read this short, however as a bonus it is included at the end of the story.
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This book is also a continuation of a short story in Crow Shine (which is included at the end, if you don't have it or just want a refresher before you start the main book).
I won't go too deeply to avoid spoilers, but it follows two people who somehow have similar, yet different powers of Death.
They both manage to get entangled with an underworld type called Stratton.
Again, no spoilers. However, Stratton was a well written antagonist who actually had some depth to him. He wasn't just a generic moustache twirling bad guy, but a smart andstrong willed one.
Another thing I liked was how well the separate story strands were eventually woven together from so disparate places. That's not something easy ti do and it shows skill.
Lastly, I like that we (eventually) get some sort of explanation for their nebulous powers, it wasn't just left as a vague mystery like the short story was.
Anyway, I would definitely recommend this one!
Matt McLeod has a darkness within him. Quite literally as it turns out, as he can summon this darkness and use it to kill those who have done wrong. In the book's opening chapter, we get a delicious taste of McLeod's peculiar brand of vigilante justice as he stalks and kills a pedophile in a London alley. In a stroke of coincidence that promises to not bode well for Matt, his exploits are caught on the cell phone camera of a hoodlum who works for local mobster Vince Stratton. Stratton thinks he can use Matt as an assassin, but Matt's none too keen on this idea. Add into the mix a nurse, Amy, who shares similar talents as Matt, and soon enough you're off to the races in a frenetic game of cat-and-mouse.
There's a lot of neat layers to Devouring Dark, and I had a lot of fun reading it, particularly as Matt works at digging his way out from under Stratton's thumb. Baxter builds an interesting web to connect his characters, although there's an awful lot here that hinges on coincidence. Thankfully, the story moves fast enough, the characters are involving enough, and the challenges befalling them are sufficiently difficult enough, that some of the overly lucky (or perhaps unlucky is more apt) strikes lining them all up just so aren't entirely noticeable or distracting on first pass.
Baxter has a great knack at using his character's voices to great effect, alternating chapters between their varied points of view, giving readers a nice array of perspective to view the story through. Although Matt is arguably the lead protagonist, it's Amy Cavendish who really shines and provides a few bright spots throughout the narrative. Amy's gift is similar to Matt's curse, but her role as a nurse, as well as her understanding of her power, allows her to use the darkness in a strikingly different way, but one that's true to her humanity.
Amy is also a conduit for Baxter, allowing him to speak up a bit on issues of palliative care and the ignominy of death. Baxter, Amy, and I find ourselves in full agreement on the issue of how we treat our sick and dying relatives from a medical perspective versus the ease with which we can end a pet's suffering. Despite our medical and scientific advancement, medically assisted suicide for human beings is still deeply taboo, but I'm more than sympathetic to the author's viewpoint, having had similar thoughts and discussions myself after losing loved ones to prolonged and painful illnesses.
Although it's a crime story first and foremost, Baxter does manage to fit in a vital message, one that I'd hope more people would give conscious thought and action toward, and I appreciate his willingness to broach it in both Devouring Dark and the bonus short story, "Shadows of the Lonely Dead," included at book's end. Mind you, Devouring Dark is hardly a treatise on the pros of assisted suicide, so if you're one of those who fret about politics in their fiction, worry not. Such moments are small in the sum of this book, but there are a few worthwhile, and dare I say vital, scenes that provide some necessary food for thought.
[Note: This review is based on an advance reading copy provided by the publisher.]
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