Tag Archives: Darkfuse

Children of Chaos – Greg F. Gifune

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Philip, Jamie, and Martin are young teenagers when they stumble upon the mysterious stranger in the rain. The encounter ends with the stranger mumbling odd ramblings about destinies and then, before their very eyes, the children see the scars that line his back move and change shapes. In an act of self defense, the boys murder the stranger. Their lives were never the same again. Fast forward to the present. Philip has failed at his marriage, is failing as a writer, and is worried that he’ll fail as a father to his teenage daughter. The only thing he seems to succeed at is being a full-blow alcoholic. Jamie has failed as a priest due to his inner demons with girls that aren’t of age. And Martin? Well, let’s just say that Martin is not of his right mind. His last destination was at the end of a lonely stretch of road called the Corridor of Demons. It’s because of Martin and his cult of followers that the road gained it’s nickname, and reputation. Martin’s ailing mother back home pays Philip to bring her mentally ill boy back to her. Is this a suicide mission or something more?

The description of Children of Chaos is that it’s an homage to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I’ve never read Heart of Darkeness, so I wouldn’t be able to tell one way or another. (Put your pitchforks away, literature snobs) One thing that I do know is that Children of Chaos is Gifune clicking on all cylinders. It has the trademark shadowiness, for which I have come to know him. It has disturbed and flawed characters with layers and layers of depth within them. It has a story that slowly unfurls itself and makes you turn the page to see what’s on the other side, not quite figuring it out until the last act. It makes you ask the question, What are we? Are we the masters of our own destiny or simply pawns in a game played by higher powers? Is everything chaotic and random or preordained? These are question I’ve often pondered in my own life, as I’m sure many of you have as well. The ending kind of ties things up with a neat little bow, maybe a little too conveniently for some, but I still enjoyed it. For myself, I pulled bits and pieces of Mystic River and Angel Heart from the story. This is one that will stick with me for a while and that’s the sign of a good one.

 

4 1/2 Cult of Personalities out of 5

 

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Corpse Rider – Tim Curran

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Christina was visiting her mother’s grave when a nearby headstone surrounded by weeds caught her eye. It saddened her that it wasn’t taken care of and kept up like all the others. She decided to clear the weeds and tidy it up. It all seemed so innocent. A good deed, really. But there was more to that grave site than the surname of CHARLES SLICK overgrown by foliage. The Slick family isn’t known in these parts by many anymore. Except Frank, the cemetary’s custodian. He knows about the family and the dirty secrets they harbor, even after all these years. Poor Christina. All she was doing was a good deed for a family she didn’t know. Too bad that good deed would unleash the Slick’s family secret on her and her life would never be the same.

Corpse Rider is a fun, fast-paced tale that keeps the pages turning at a blinding speed. Curran weaves a bit of gothic horror mixed with 1980’s B-horror movie fun. The obvious comparisons to the early 80’s movie, Basket Case, permeate the story. However, it is not a soulless derivative. Curran constructs a great story mixed with some memorable characters that breathes new life into an old classic. Very much worth your time.

 

5 Belials out of 5

 

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With Fury in Hand – Lee Thompson

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The mean streets of Flint, Michigan have been known to chew up many an innocent soul and spit it out. For five individuals, change is in the air like a breeze of desperation. Unknown to them, their lives will intertwine in a chaotic storm of death.

With Fury in Hand is a gritty tale that oozes with despair and locks it’s icy grip onto your throat taking your breath away. No matter how much you struggle, you can’t change what’s unfolding in front of you. This is my first story by Thompson and I’m impressed at his realistic characters and his ability to ratchet up the dread. You can see what’s happening, but you’re helpless to do anything about it. My only criticism, and it’s a small one, is that the story felt a little too convenient in how it wraps around full circle.

4 Bullet Holes out of 5

 

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Highwayman – Craig Saunders

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I admit it. When it comes to my reading, I’m a completionist. For better or for worse, I finish what I start. I can’t remember the last time that my little idiosyncrasy has bitten me in the butt as hard as it did when I read Craig Saunder’s Highwayman. So many times I wanted to quit this mismashed bore of a story. But no. I trudged on through the mud of staccato bursts of sentences, multiple points of view storytelling that seemed to lead to nowhere, and a hazy plot that was about as entertaining as watching metal rust. Was it all bad? Not totally, but close. There were, indeed, parts where he’d get the ball rolling and I’d start to get into it only to come to a screeching halt and a new chapter of mundane happenings would be in front of me. I’m sure there’s a decent story somewhere in Highwayman. Maybe I don’t get what Saunders was trying to create. But, what I read a tedious lesson in patience with no payout for my troubles. Sorry, but I can’t recommend Highwayman to anyone.

2 Talking Deer out of 5
This ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Tormentor – William Meikle

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Jim Greenwood’s life is devastated with the death of his wife from cancer. He attempts to start over by getting away from all of the pain that surrounds him in London by moving to a remote home on the NE coast of Scotland near Dunvegan. The home is the oldest in the area and the locals seem to be frightened by it. Soon Jim finds out why. Mysterious sooty smudges appear while he sleeps that seem to be forming some sort of code. In an attempt to avoid the madness of it all, Jim resorts to drinking heavily. Is something from beyond trying to communicate with him or is Jim slowly going insane?

Meikle is a master at telling tales and Tormentor is no exception. He crafts a tight storyline with realistic characters that you quickly identify with. Tormentor is a fun romp of a haunted house story that you’ll savor through every page.

5 stick figures out of 5
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The Winter Box – Tim Waggoner

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The winter box was an antique wooden box purchased by Heather when her and Todd were first together and they would put one object in the box on their anniversary that represents something about their relationship. Twenty one years later, their relationship is in peril of collapsing. Snowed in on their anniversary, they’re close to throwing in the towel when an outside force reveals how bad life can be apart.

The Winter Box has a nice atmosphere and Waggoner has an easy writing style, but somewhere along the line it doesn’t fully deliver. There’s not much in the way of scares and the reason why the events take place is fuzzy and never really explained. The story kind of comes off as a derivative of A Christmas Carol for relationships. However, it still shows promise and doesn’t discourage me to check out more of Waggoner’s work.

3 white out blizzards out of 5
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The Rain Dancers – Greg Gifune

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Will returns with Betty to attend his father-in-law’s funeral and settle his estate. While staying at the house on a rainy night, a stranger arrives claiming to be an old friend of Betty and her dad. Although Betty has no recollection of Ed, they let the elderly gentleman in and she soon becomes enchanted by his stories of her and her dad from when she was young. Will, feeling like the left out stranger, finds it strange that this man knows so much about his wife and yet she doesn’t remember anything about him. Even more strange is how comfortable she becomes with him, a trait he has never seen her display in 20 years of marriage. Is he being paranoid or is there more to Ed that meets the eye?

The Rain Dancers is a great tale by Gifune. The man knows psychological horror better than about any other author out there. He paints an amazingly uncomfortable setting that you keep putting yourself in Will’s place and asking yourself, “What would I do if I were in his shoes?” As the story unfolds, the tension ratchets up to point where it almost feels hallucinating. This is Gifune at his best. Highly recommended.

5 rain soaked strangers out of 5
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