In Bill Hussey's debut novel, a centuries-old pall of evil hangs over the small village of Crow Haven, personified by a mysterious figure known as the Crowman. When the young Simon Malahyde disappears apparently without cause, and young boys are abducted, then found dead and mutilated, DI Jack Trent is paired with his colleague and ex-girlfriend DS Dawn Howard to investigate.
Trent is already familiar with the supernatural. A childhood near-death experience has left him infested by demons that give him intimate insights into the thoughts and histories of anyone he touches. He also receives visions of the future--visions that insist Dawn's son Jamie will be a victim of the serial killer currently terrorising the area (except Crow Haven itself, which seems inured to strange deaths and malice). Dawn takes more convincing that the threat to Crow Haven is not mundane, and she becomes sidelined as the investigation takes Trent into stranger and stranger parts--including a marvellous hidden library.
The enforced proximity between jilter (Trent) and jiltee (Dawn) makes for a constant thread of tension running through the novel. The more Trent yearns to be close to Dawn, the more he must push her away, for his emotional attachment to her feeds the demons that he has always tried to keep penned within a cage of logic. The demons have already killed his mother; he can and will give everything to prevent that ever happening again.
The narrative is slow to build to the climax, and it feels somewhat weighted down by the density of Hussey's writing. The investigation is followed minutely, and there are digressions into various aspects of the relevant backstory, all of which tends to create a feeling that the story isn't going anywhere soon. Yet Hussey writes well, and imbues the reader with confidence that this is all going to come together at the end. Which it does. The tension becomes more effective as the final confrontation approaches, and the worth of the slow build-up becomes evident when the reader realises they are fully engaged with Trent, and concerned for his welfare.
There are some great aspects to the book--the above-mentioned library, for one, and the way everyone knows there's something not quite right about Simon Malahyde, but nobody really wants to face what it might be. Definitely one for the Horror fan who prefers to get more in their favourite genre than just blood and gore.