Nightcrawlers

Image of Nightcrawlers
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
March 5, 2014
Publisher/Imprint: 
DarkFuse
Pages: 
272
Reviewed by: 

“Curran has taken the horror master ’s sense of inherited dread and given it a second and tighter twist . . . In his superb and image-evoking descriptions, the reader can feel the stifling, claustrophobic fear reaching out to seize and immobilize.”

When new Chief of Police Kenney is called to the little Wisconsin farmsite, he doesn’t know he’s about to embark on discovering a long-known but well-hidden horror. 

“They were laid out under plastic tarps next to the holes they’d been pulled from. Five women, two men, one child. So far. So far. Those two words kept ringing in his head.”

Bellac Road is a lonely stretch of farmland, abandoned and overgrown. It was being bulldozed and cleared, and that’s when the first body was discovered. Through the entire episode, the “rain fell and cold mud sluiced and the crime scene was a misty wet envelope of muck.”  There are splashing noises . . . “someone walking . . . with sloppy, mucky sounds” . . . a scream . . .

 . . . and the first of Kenney’s men becomes a casualty.

In this atmosphere, Kenney and his men begin their investigation. One by one, the officers recount their own memories of Bellac Road.

“Strange things happen out this way . . . a funny place . . . air’s just funny . . . got a-a negative charge . . .”

Interrogation of farmers and residents in the surrounds yield more of the same; stories of whole families disappearing, of strange births, and odd shapes in the mist, of legends among the Ojibwa.  

Kenney turns to his predecessor’s collection of files dating back twenty years or more, filled with newspaper clippings and historical accounts, telling of things “ . . . crawling out of the woods, hissing and gibbering . . . giggling . . .” of pastures collapsing and huge caverns being revealed . . . “a myth of  nocturnal underdwellers . . . coming out of the earth through sinkholes . . .”

Kenny struggles to stay the level, hard-headed cop, but it isn’t working. Slowly, he’s also being drawn into the superstitious aura hanging over the investigation like a suffocating shroud.

“ . .  . something horrible had happened . . something horrible was still happening. The place had gone bad, been poisoned to the very roots . . . The very marrow was . . . rancid and contaminated . . .  A man could pretend he didn’t feel it but it was there . . .”

Then they find the passageway into the earth, an ancient well boarded up long before. The place was as gloomy as a crypt . . . Water was seeping from the foundation and the masonry was falling away in wet clots . . .” There’s a hot, boiling stink . . . “a pervasive odor of putrescence.” It shouldn’t be uncovered but they have to do so, to close their investigation and end the horror once and for all.

Kenney and his men enter the well, and soon discover the secret haunting the little hamlet of Haymarket beyond centuries . . .

With a recognizable nod to The Colour Out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft, author Curran has taken the horror master ’s sense of inherited dread and given it a second and tighter twist by placing his story away from Puritan-influenced New England and in a remote Midwestern village. In his superb and image-evoking descriptions, the reader can feel the stifling, claustrophobic fear reaching out to seize and immobilize.

This novel should gain Tim Curran admission to the ranks of other Lovecraft-influenced writers such as Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, and Robert Bloch. It’s definitely written for anyone who likes his horror insidious and originating in an ancestor-plagued past, but should only be read with the lights on.

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