THE HOUR BEFORE DARK

Douglas Clegg, Author . Leisure $24 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8439-5044-1

Alongside the dominant stream of horror fiction that, at whatever level of artistic achievement, relies on shock and gore, runs a quieter stream that relies on atmosphere and inference for its unsettling effects (think Machen, Blackwood, sometimes Ramsey Campbell). Clegg (The Infinite; Naomi) has added a superior new title to this latter tradition, with a psychologically astute and genuinely shivery story of a young man who returns to his ancestral home on a remote island off Massachusetts. Nemo Raglan, a failed novelist, is back at Hawthorn, on Burnley Island, because his father, Gordie, has been found slaughtered in the family's smokehouse. Also at Hawthorn are Nemo's errant younger brother, Bruno, and their sister, Brooke, a high-strung artist who'd been living with Dad; the siblings' mother had disappeared from the family when they were children. The killer has, weirdly, left no traces and thus no clues; but then much about Hawthorn and the siblings is weird, particularly the game they played as children, a risky form of mind-projection taught them by their father, who used it as a POW, whereby they were able to explore worlds known and unknown. As brothers and sister get reacquainted and ponder the murder, the air grows tense but also dark. Nemo senses an unseen presence; is the house haunted? Clegg delves deep and precisely into the familial ties that bind but also sunder even as he celebrates the magical isolation of a New England island so adrift from the mainland as to be its own planet. Suspenseful and relentlessly spooky, told in economical prose yet peopled by characters as fully realized as one's own blood kin, this is at once the most artful and most mainstream tale yet from one of horror's brightest lights. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/02/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-8439-5142-4
MP3 CD - 978-1-5113-1772-6
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