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the darkling – r b chesterton

The Darkling

I received this as an Advance Review Copy but it was actually published on 2nd April.

Set in Coden, Alabama in 1974, the story is told by Mimi Bosarge.  Recently graduated at 21, Mimi is happy as she has landed a job as live-in tutor to the Henderson’s.  A picture perfect, happy blonde all-American family who have moved to Coden from California, restoring the great house of the town (Belle Fleur) to its former 1940s glory.

At the start of the summer, Mimi’s social worker grandmother Cora (who raised Mimi after her parents died in a fire) introduces 16 year old Annie to the Hendersons, asking whether they would be able to foster her.  Annie seems both beautiful and tragic – she has amnesia, with no knowledge of any of her own history or family – and noone appears to be missing her.

Being so happy, wealthy and generous, the Henderson’s welcome Annie with open arms and hearts.  All of them except oldest daughter Margo who seems both suspicious and jealous of Annie.  When Margo disappears, Mimi’s suspicions of Annie are also raised and she embarks on a mission to uncover the truth of Margo’s disappearance and uncovers more about Annie than she is comfortable with.

As evil seems to descend on Belle Fleur, Mimi realises that Annie’s arrival has disturbed something old and dark, and she appears to be the only one to suspect the truth.

I like being scared.  I thrive on the feeling. I love a good horror film, and I especially love a good creepy story.  However, I have found that my niche for being scared is a very small one.  Too many horror films these days are just gore, and not enough suspense – or are too unreal to be scared by as they could never possibly happen in real life.

I think these is why I enjoy J-horror and K-Horror so much.  They are usually based around things just on the edge of reality.  A lot of ‘out of the corner of your eye’ inexplicable stuff. I like that.

For something to give me the willies (ooer), it generally has to be based in reality, usually with a supernatural element, preferably around a family and occur almost entirely in their home – where they should feel the most safe. If there is a dark-haired child featured, even better!  this is especially difficult to get across in a book.

The Darkling manages to tick all of those boxes.

I can imagine this being made into a very sinister film – if it didn’t get the terrible Hollywood gloss treatment.  The breakdown of Mrs Henderson, the malevolent creatures, Mimi’s uncertainty of reality and fight to turn suspicions from herself, a young girl’s disappearance , the house’s disturbing history – all good, meaty horror stuff.

There were times when the story repeated itself a little – I wished that there could have been some differences on the occasions that Mimi encountered the ‘nester’, but I can forgive the occasional lapses in variety as I zoomed through the book, desperate to know the ending – even though I had an inkling of what I might find there!

R B Chesterton is apparently a pseudonym of Carolyn Haines who wrote the Sarah Booth Delaney Mysteries series of books. I’m afraid that meant nothing to me, but it may well do to others!

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