by John Connolly
Category: Fiction / Mystery
392 pages; ISBN: 0-7434-8784-2
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Kevin Tipple
In 1693 a horrific massacre occurred on the small island of Sanctuary, Maine. An outcast returned with a group of cutthroats to rape and pillage the settlement before killing all. In modern times, Moloch, as he restlessly sleeps in a Virginia prison cell dreams of the massacre as if he were there.
On modern day Sanctuary, now known as “Dutch” Officer Joe Dupree senses something is not right with his island home. At seven feet two inches and known to the residents affectionately as “Melancholy Joe” he is the island’s resident policeman and is assisted by a rotation of officers from the coastal city of Portland, Maine. Dupree knows the legends and the history of the island and he knows that something is wrong. Something is stirring on the island having been awakened from its long slumber.
Joe isn’t the only one on the island sensing something. Vincent “Jack” Giacomelli is aware also. As the island’s landscape painter, he isn’t very good but he does make money selling to the tourists. He spins a tale about his past as well for the tourists and soon another painting is sold. But his paintings are changing and he isn’t aware of the changes until the painting is finished. Small black shapes are appearing in the paintings. Small black shapes that he did not paint and almost look human.
There are other signs as well. The birds are gone, the marsh in the center of the island at the massacre site is rapidly expanding and vegetation is growing even in the dead of winter, and the animals are acting strange. Then there are the moths that are appearing. Hundreds of them are appearing, sometimes a solitary moth, sometimes large clouds of them, even though it is the middle of winter and these kind of moths never appear on the island. The signs of something strange continue to accumulate while Moloch escapes and leads a group of hardened evil men in search of his ex-wife, a child he cares nothing about and more than $800,000 of his money.
Like the blizzard that is bearing down on the small island, Moloch and his men bear down on the island leaving a trail of torture and executions in their wake. They seek vengeance and retribution while also seeking the pleasure they derive from inflicting pain and death on others. They are led by a man, Moloch, whose reality slips more and more back to 1683 than in the present. They aren’t the only ones seeking vengeance however. So too is the presence on the island as the blood debt from 1863 must once again be repaid.
Blending themes of fate/destiny and the nature of pure evil, the author has created an intense read that highly entertains for the nearly 400-page novel. The work moves back and forth from supernatural events to the mystery components and along the way numerous characters are killed. Often very graphically and in very violent ways. As such, the read is intense, dark, and very disturbing at times.
At the same time, watching the slow psychological collapse of several of the characters was interesting. As were the ways the author weaved the many storylines and character viewpoints in such a way to draw the reader in all the while suggesting a possible rational explanation for events. This is a book that crosses genres between horror and mystery and for those readers so inclined, a very good book.
By John Connolly
ISBN # 0-7434-8784-2
This entire review previously appeared online at the Readersroom.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2004