The Darkening by Stephen M Irwin

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The Darkening by Stephen M Irwin

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This debut novel is set in the wide open spaces of Australia. Paradoxically, it has a sense of tight spaces coupled with lashings of suspense.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: December 2009
Publisher: Sphere
ISBN: 978-0751543964

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This book has the 'S' word written all over it. No, not sex - supernatural. So, it's got all things a bit spooky, not-quite-right, strange coincidences. They are sprinkled throughout like rock salt. I must admit that when I read the blurb on the back cover with its supernatural theme, I gave an inward groan. Not really my cup of tea. But I'm open-minded and I'll read anything once. I'm glad I did. Irwin is Australian. For some reason I haven't read too many books by Australian authors, so I was keen to get reading.

The story starts off in London. Busy, crowded, cosmopolitan London - and chock-a-block with Australians. The main character, Nick Close is Australian. Happily settled in London with his new wife. Life is good. Then the unthinkable happens.

After the tragedy, Nick returns to his Australian roots. But he's different now. This new Nick, this sad Nick, this newly-alone Nick sees things. He sees things others don't see. He has this 'gift.' Or is it a curse? Time will tell.

He's back home on the other side of the world and not at all sure what he's going to do with the rest of his life. It's been almost twenty years since he's been back. His mother Katharine, now lives alone in the family home and she doesn't exactly welcome Nick back with open arms. In fact, she's been dreading his return. But why? She's so luke-warm towards her only son. The reasons start to unfold slowly throughout the book.

The suburb where she lives is modest. The locals appear unremarkable. They go about their business quietly. At the edge of this unassuming residential area is a huge swathe of densely-packed trees. The woods. They've already claimed one young life many years ago. They are treated by the locals with respect. Parents warn their children not to go into the woods and even adults appear nervous.

The dark, forbidding woods are central to everything in this book. They draw Nick in like a huge magnet. He is hopeless in their spell. As the death count rises, Nick realizes he has two options. Sink or swim. His resourcefulness kicks in and he decides to ask questions. His crotchety mother and more amenable sister are part of the mix. Research is carried out. Findings are extremely disturbing.

Danger is ever present in this book, alongside suspense and the supernatural. Having said that, Irwin has a light hand with the latter. He doesn't overdo it. The woods themselves take up pages and pages of evocative description: ... like a row of black teeth ... It's almost as if the woods are alive and breathing.

Irwin has a lovely poetic lilt. There are many elegant phrases and sentences such as ... old trees cloistered together, huddled close as old soldiers under grim umbrellas and words spilled out of the woman like marbles from a spilt sack.

As for the subject of all things supernatural, there appear to be two strains of thought. Believers and non-believers. I'm in the latter camp. I appreciate that the supernatural has captured the imagination of many. It just has failed to capture mine. However, that said, I was able to enjoy the book for what it is - a piece of fiction. Irwin has done his research and I found the links between the past and the present in the story, to be interesting and also a little fascinating.

I'm surprising myself by saying that if Irwin chooses to write a sequel then I'd look forward to reading it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoyed this book then you might also like Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott.

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Buy The Darkening by Stephen M Irwin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Darkening by Stephen M Irwin at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Darkening by Stephen M Irwin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Darkening by Stephen M Irwin at


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