I’m getting really close to calling the race for best British genre novelist of the 21st century (thus far) for Catherine Cavendish, and the author’s new novel In Darkness, Shadows Breathe just might be her best yet.
From the novel’s synopsis:
Carol and Nessa are strangers but not for much longer.
In a luxury apartment and in the walls of a modern hospital, the evil that was done continues to thrive. They are in the hands of an entity that knows no boundaries and crosses dimensions – bending and twisting time itself – and where danger waits in every shadow. The battle is on for their bodies and souls and the line between reality and nightmare is hard to define.
Through it all, the words of Lydia Warren Carmody haunt them. But who was she? And why have Carol and Nessa been chosen?
In many ways, In Darkness, Shadows Breathe is a perfect example of modern Gothic horror. The writing is raw and vulnerable and drenched with dread, slowly drawing the reader into an intricate web whose true shape you can only see after its final page is read and its cover closed.
Remarkably, Cavendish manages to tell a story involving slipping through time that never feels like science fiction while simultaneously telling one of the most chilling stories of possession that I have ever read. Moreover, she pulls off one of the best bits of literary sleight of hand with the ease of a trained magician, switching narrators halfway through the book in a way that utterly changes the perspective of the novel while still feeling cohesive.
Corridors and spirits who appear and disappear at will are just the tip of Cavendish’s iceberg, however.
I don’t believe I’ve ever read a fictional account of someone going through cancer treatments that was as brutally honest in the way that the author manages here. Of course, when one reads the afterword and discovers that she had been through her own battle with cancer that makes more sense.
Still, for many authors, even when recounting something they have been through themselves there is a disconnect that does not exist in this novel. Cavendish explains Nessa’s experiences in a way that will have you twisting in your chair and praying for the pain to end. The pain, however, never fully goes away. It is a constant ache, emotionally and physically, that flares to the point of being unbearable.
This would be almost too much for any one person to deal with, but Cavendish then compounds that pain by layering on the anger and vengeance of a family line tracking back generations and an entity out of time and space which personifies those traits.
You might think that this all sounds a bit disjointed, but I assure you, the author brings them all together seamlessly.
If I had one complaint about In Darkness, Shadows Breathe, it would be that we didn’t get to spend quite enough time with Carol as narrator. Though her story feels told to completion, I wonder if there wasn’t just a bit more that was left out or that might have been sacrificed for the sake of pacing in order to get to next section of the story. Otherwise, this novel is beautifully written and realized on the page.
In Darkness, Shadows Breathe is published by Flame Tree Press and is available now wherever you buy books online!