I've long been curious to check out the books that Charles de Lint wrote back in the 80s and 90s under the pen name "Samuel M. Key." He mentions them in some of his books, and the reason why he wrote them under a different name: normally he writes fantasy, usually urban fantasy, but these books are definitely horror, very dark and, judging from Angel of Darkness, very violent. I have enjoyed many of de Lint's books, so when this reissue was purchased by my library, I was happy to finally be able to read it.
The novel opens with a man, clearly deranged, who has made it his hobby to torture people in order to record their voices. It seems he has a plan to make a sort of music from the sounds of pain and desperation, and his current victim, a teenage runaway he'd lured to his recording studio under false pretenses, will be the culmination of his demented endeavor. The music that results calls forth a vengeful presence that is terrifying to behold.
Ex-cop JackKeller, searching for the runaway teen, arrives at the scene and immediately senses something horrific - something so horrible that he doesn't even go into the house. Instead, he calls for the police. The officers on the scene experience very disorienting visions at the gut-wrenching sight in the recording studio, visions that continue even after they leave. There are visions of a wasteland, a rotting, distorted version of their city, and when they fall asleep, they are transported there in their dreams - but is it just a dream? As more and more unexplainable things happen, Jack, his former coworkers and his friends come to the conclusion that just because something cannot be explained does not mean it isn't real. Unfortunately this isn't exactly the sort of foe the police academy prepares its students to face...
First off, let me say that this book is definitely not for the squeamish. De Lint pulls no punches. If I'd read the first few pages of this book, and it had been by an unfamiliar author, I may not have been as determined to continue with it. But I trust de Lint, and soon his characters took over (there were several, some less sympathetic than others, whose stories were told in alternating point-of-view sections), and I was quite happy (if a bit disturbed at times) to go along with the ride. It is a gripping tale, with many of his common themes (the horrors of child abuse and spouse abuse, the psychology of the victims, the possibility of redemption, the strength of compassion) presented in a harder-hitting, darker way than the Newford books. The description of the desolate city was very effective, creepy and palpable, and the entire premise was unusual and intriguing. I definitely plan to check out the other Samuel Key books. While I do prefer the world of Newford, it is fascinating to take a peek at the darker side of de Lint's imagination.
Angel of Darkness by Charles de Lint" - originally published under the pen name "Samual M. Key" (Orb, 1990)
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