cover image Darkness Demands

Darkness Demands

Simon Clark. Cemetery Dance Publications, $40 (440pp) ISBN 978-1-58767-008-4

A classic horror theme the unnatural survival in the present of an indescribably nasty bit of the past gets a routine treatment in this latest novel from British author Clark (The Judas Tree). Bestselling true crime writer John Newton has recently moved with his wife, teenage son Paul and young daughter Elizabeth to a stately house in Skelbrooke when he begins receiving anonymous notes, couched in archaic language, demanding offerings of inconsequential items mostly food and drink to be left on a grave in the Necropolis on the outskirts of town. Though John is merely puzzled, his neighbors, who receive the same notes, are horrified. Since Norman days, Skelbrooke has been periodically terrorized by a primitive entity dubbed ""Baby Bones,"" and those who fail to satisfy its wishes meet with ghastly fates. Even readers not well versed in horror fiction will intuit what John will inevitably be asked to leave in the graveyard the moment Baby Bones's suggestive name is invoked. Clark sustains suspense as best he can, with a panoramic narrative that shows the tragic impact of the entity's demands on other lives, but several of the subplots Paul's romantic liaisons in the Necropolis and a senile town elder's repeated attempts to pass John important information on the town's history seem obvious padding. Though Clark credibly portrays John's gradual transformation from incredulous observer to desperate believer, his fans may find the eerie climax of this tale uncharacteristically contrived rather than earned. (Feb.) FYI: Clark is among the guests of honor at the World Horror Convention in Seattle this May.