Monday, October 17, 2022

Review: Dark Country by Monique Snyman

Horror generally makes me run screaming in the other direction. I am a coward with my own active imagination. And I value my nightmare-free sleep a lot. So I rarely ever read anything that could interrupt that sleep with panic. Not that this means I always succeed in avoiding scary books but I sure do try. So why did I willingly pick this up, knowing that it is classed as horror with paranormal elements? It's hard to explain but I had it on good authority that there was more here than just a story about a serial killer. And there was but perhaps not enough for a reader like me, who is generally put off by the gory and the gruesome.

Esmé Snyder is an occult investigator in her family's business who is sometimes called to consult on cases with the South African Police Service. The story opens with her being called to the scene of a particularly ghastly crime. The body of a mutilated twenty-something black woman has been discovered in a field and the murder is being considered as a possible ritual murder. Quite quickly, several more ghastly ritualistic murders are discovered but nothing seems to tie them together besides the horrific mutilations, the attention seeking aspects of the crime scenes, and the way that there is something paranormal at work, draining the life force from and deadening the entire crime scene. Esmé will have to track and try to stop this soulless killer even as he might be tracking her.

The novel is narrated by Esmé but also offers third person chapters that give the reader the serial killer's point of view. This allows the reader to see his motivations in a way that Esmé cannot. There are also news articles and internet comments about the cases showing the public's response to both the horrors of these murders and the police handling of them. Mixed in with the murders and Esmé's investigation is some information about her family and past and even more about her on-again, off-again involvement with a co-worker, which evolves into a love triangle. Both of these plot threads are very secondary to the ritualistic, ancestor magic driven sacrifices that litter the story. Esmé is a strong character but she makes questionable decision after questionable decision, often resulting in her needing rescue herself. She is smart enough not to do these things, and yet... She holds herself at an emotional remove and doesn't accept help easily despite being surrounded by people who can, should, and want to help. The inclusion of South African myths and religion makes the story more intriguing, especially for readers not familiar with either. It is clearly a story about power and evil and what drives people to such lengths. The final pages of the novel definitely imply that the end is not the end and that there will be more books to come. While this may not have been the book for me, it would be a good book for people who enjoy horror and serial killers, those who are fascinated by religious zealotry growing on a scaffolding of insanity, and those who appreciate a little of the paranormal and the unexplainable in their reading.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

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