For those among us who love a dark and twisted story, but aren’t so keen on gluts of blood and viscera, World Horror Master Michael Collings gives us his latest ‘cosy horror mystery’ DeathBloom. An experimental novel ‒ Collings tells us himself in the footnotes ‒ DeathBloomwas written entirely by the seat of his pants, employing two characters from former novels (elderly sleuth Ms Victoria Spears and her slightly younger friend, Lynn Hanson) and a previously conjured setting, Shadow Valley, a place that is both isolated and disturbing. And Collings didn’t stop there. He added further constraints, requiring that each chapter name be composed of two words, “with at least one of them punning on conventional definitions” proving his intent to misdirect the reader from the get-go. Occasionally, he asked his wife to play ‘god’ with his narrative, allowing her, on a whim, to declare whether characters might live or die. For pacing, he demanded every chapter introduce a fresh plot event. With all those limitations, you might wonder that Collings completed this novel at all! The result, however, is a tightly-woven nest of intrigue, a novel which is atmospheric, suspenseful, supernatural, and riddled with unexpected twists. I loved that the protagonists are a bunch of highly capable and canny little old ladies with no responsibilities and a penchant for sticking their noses where they ought not. I loved too, that they take time out for tea and board games and jaunts to the store for ice cream. Of course, a horror gourmand like Collings can’t help but include elements such as sinister demonic forces, deadly sentinels, and haunting hallucinatory dreams, but the author has shown restraint here too, leading his readers to the edge of terror, before swooning back a step or two. A quick read, easily managed over a couple of evenings, I thoroughly enjoyed DeathBloom. With its shades of Miss Marple with a good dose of Longmire, it’s the perfect ghostly murder mystery to read with the lights off.
Blurb: Three strong women…three survivors linked by friendship and love… These three must unravel the secrets of an Evil hidden in Shadow Valley, once an isolated farming community until flooded to create a recreational lake…and to all appearances a deadly creature was drowned in its lair. Now, Victoria Sears and Lynn Hanson, chance visitors to Shadow Valley Lake, join forces with Edith Sears, their host for a quiet Fourth-of-July celebration at the mountain resort, as they discover that it still lurks beneath, plotting to destroy its chosen victims. All that remains is for it to be released by the DeathBloom. DeathBloom is a sequel to Shadow Valley (Wildside, 2011) and the fourth Victoria Sears/Lynn Hanson Mystery.