suspense

The Fallen by Dale Bailey

Back in May, I reviewed an excellent novella by writer Dale Bailey titled, “The End of the End of Everything.” Until now, it had been the only work I had read by the author, but I was delighted to hear that his novels were being republished. The Fallen is Bailey’s debut novel from 2002.

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Saul’s Run, West Virginia is a small town that is an eerily perfect place to live except every few years when a slew of unlikely deaths and violent crimes flare up like a bout of flu and then ultimately recede again for another number of years. Otherwise, people live till old ages and the security of the residents is completely at ease. Henry Sleep returns to the Run, as it is known to the locals, after a decade’s long absence after hearing news of the apparent suicide death of his father, the local holy man. Henry is skeptical of the death and as he has further run-ins with the other locals and a new face, his apprehension grows tremendously.

The Fallen is classic horror that I couldn’t help but associate with Stephen King. Although, this novel felt tremendously different from his recent novella, Bailey still focused on a place with an unnatural presence growing around it, ready to suffocate the characters till the final pages.

The idea of evil lurking in unexpected places was prime in The Fallen, giving it that earlier King feeling. Recurring shared dreams of being caught in a labyrinth are highlighted throughout leaving the reader ever-curious about how this all ties together.

Bailey structures the novel with sections and chapters that jump between present and past years when the Run’s tranquil life is upended by dastardly crimes and unexpected deaths, which gives a feeling of unknown dread. When weaved together, this plot construct can be both confusing and intriguing with the former purposefully disorienting to leave the reader feeling off-kilter as Henry further investigates his father’s odd death and the evil forces of the town.

Admittedly, the novel did feel a little uneven. The beginning was incredibly engaging as past years’ portions were looped with Henry’s present return. The middle slightly stagnated in a way that it might not have if Bailey was writing this today with several novels already in his oeuvre. The ending’s action is full tilt as Henry and his friends learn what is causing the intermittent horrors of Saul’s Run.

The Fallen and Dale Bailey’s other novels are being republished by Open Road Media. Check ’em out and take special note of his novella that I previously mentioned, which is available from Tor.com.

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Exceptional First Sentences: The Thirty-Nine Steps

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“I returned from the City about three o’clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact. The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary Englishman made me sick. I couldn’t get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been standing in the sun. ‘Richard Hannay,’ I kept telling myself, ‘you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, and you had better climb out.'”

***

I know I’ve noted before that things have been a wee bit quiet around here as of late–this is due to busy, busy, busy. I’ve been running around here, there, and everywhere and it seems as if this will continue for the next several months over the spread of many countries. I’m dead-tired today and can’t help but think of John Buchan’s man on the run, Richard Hannay.

I love The Thirty-Nine Steps and have seen many adaptations (my favorite has to be the stage play which I’ve seen twice). I have so many books lined up for this summer, but I can’t help but imagine running through Scotland on an adventure (minus murder, spies, and anarchist plots).

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This book is available for free in the public domain.

“Doppel” by Lindsay Smith

doppel“Doppel” is one of those short stories where everything at first appears very much on the surface, but really, that’s not the case. Lindsay Smith’s story is told in a series of exchanges between a British spy embedded in Nazi occupied France, his “nanny” (the Special Executive Office, which he reports to), and his handler.

Posing as a German businessman who has been living in the UK for a number of years, Agent Keystone is tasked with getting close to the mysterious SS-Oberführer Albrecht, who wears a Totenkopf ring on his finger (Totenkopf being the word for skull in German; it literally translates as death head). 

Agent Keystone finds the Nazis despicable, but he must hobnob and be amicable with Albrecht, which leads him to feel like there are two versions of himself.

As I lay awakened, I felt—as I have been feeling since this operation began—as if there was another presence inside of me, stretching at my skin, tugging me, trying to subsume the me that remains.”

As he carries on a friendly relationship with Albrecht, Agent Keystone begins to see something completely different from what he had initially anticipated. The SS-Oberführer is up to something, but honestly, knowing many of the strange and horrifying things the Nazis did in real life, I’m really not surprised my any of their notions. 

The story was written in a really engaging way. The correspondence voice between each British player is wholly its own and when Agent Keystone goes missing, the messages between the SEO and his handler point to the worst. Lindsay Smith mixes history, thriller, and mythology to pen a fun tale filled with suspense. The story is very approachable for any reader, but I advise you to pay close attention to what’s going on, even if it seems odd, because otherwise you might just miss the fantastical outcome.

This story is available by the publisher as an e-book for .99 cents and online.

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