Devouring Dark: Alan Baxter
Reviewed by Brian Bogart
I really dig a lot of Alan Baxter’s stories. Even though I have mostly read his short offerings, the few full-length ones I’ve read I have enjoyed. Devouring Dark is the author’s latest and while it doesn’t hit all the marks I predicted it would from the opening pages, it definitely hit most of them along the way.
We all have our dark side; a darkness that lurks just below the surface. We smile, go out for drinks with some friends, even talk up that cute gal at the pub- we keep it under wraps as much as possible. Not just from others; we hide it from ourselves just as much.
Matt McLeod has a darkness within him, too. Unlike the rest of us, he can control it somewhat, summon it to destroy criminals, pedophiles and such. The novel opens up with him stalking the latter and dispensing some old-fashioned justice with supernatural efficiency. The only problem? Mob boss Vince Stratton. One of his cronies records the Scotsman’s darkness powers with his cell phone and now Vince wants to hire Matt as his own assassin.
That’s one of the problems and the major catalyst to get the storytelling rolling. But there’s another issue wrapping its shadowy tendrils around the narrative: this darkness is slowly killing him. Each use of this power is more draining than the last. And even a heavy-drinking Scottish bastard like Matt knows that using it was a complicated predicament, and that was before being under the greasy thumb of a ruthless mob kingpin.
Add in Amy Cavendish, a nurse with powers of her own and we have a neat little set-up for some cat and mouse games spiced up with supernatural powers for flavor.
Amy uses her similar power in a different way than Matt, too. Once she is introduced, she becomes Baxter’s personal stand-in (I assume) as ideas about assisted suicide and how we handle the care of our sick and the elderly are brought up throughout the story.
I give him props for using this supernatural crime thriller as something to say on a subject such as that. It’s more than just a passing scene, but doesn’t take over the story at hand.
To those shaking their head at the politics and taboo subject matter… don’t worry. The novel isn’t obsessed with only being a platform for that discussion. It is important in the context of the characters involved and congruent with the flow of the story. It just kind of opens up some reflective, food for thought moments that I didn’t expect when I first started reading.
Well done, mate.
The only quibble I have that lingers is the use of dialogue to move plot forward a bit much. It’s just a personal taste thing. Baxter does this with great efficiency and is damn good at it; I just wish he tempered that technique with a tad less dialogue and a few more descriptive passages to help balance the book more. Your mileage may vary, of course.
The plus side to the dialogue thing is that dialogue can be read more easily by most people and therefore it becomes a “quicker” read for some (although perhaps artificially). So like I said, a matter of personal taste.
Baxter definitely deserves your attention. Looking at my bookshelf… I’m going to move some of his books ahead in the TBR pile.
The darkness can consume and enlighten, in equal measure. This book takes a similar approach in telling you an entertaining story.
So, take a cue from Matt and pour yourself some Laphroaig.
Take a chance and let Baxter’s latest devour you.
Matt McLeod is a man plagued since childhood by a malevolent darkness that threatens to consume him. Following a lifetime spent wrestling for control over this lethal onslaught, he’s learned to wield his mysterious paranormal skill to achieve an odious goal: retribution as a supernatural vigilante.
When one such hit goes bad, McLeod finds himself ensnared in a multi-tentacled criminal enterprise caught between a corrupt cop and a brutal mobster. His only promise of salvation may be a bewitching young woman who shares his dark talent but has murderous designs of her own.
Brian Bogart is an American author of dark fiction and horror/fantasy. He has written stories most of his life and has been a fan of the genre since the age of seven. His approach to storytelling is a tad macabre at times but tries to capture the nuances of the humanity and sometimes, inhumanity, beneath the surface. He supports the horror community with bloodied open arms and demonic vigor.
Dream Darkly and Keep Writing.
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