It’s just gone three in the morning and I cannot get to sleep. I don’t know what’s up with that so figured I’d have a little read of whatever was close to hand. ‘Whatever was close to hand’ ended up being my last stop (until I find more books) on my little trip through Gary Braunbeck’s Cedar Hill locale.
Without even realising, it turns out that I’d saved the best until last…
Robert Londrigan has it all; a news casting career that is on the up, a beautiful wife and a baby on the way. All this is turned on its head in the course of one catastrophic night but the worst is yet to come as a strange disfigured man steals Robert’s daughter’s body from the local morgue…
This heralds the onset of hallucinations, visitations and things that just cannot be. Is Robert losing his mind or is he about to learn some of the truths that lurk beneath the surface of the world? Either way, he may not survive with his sanity intact…
I hadn’t read a lot of horror until the last year or so, bookstores in the UK aren’t much good for horror once you’ve had your fill of Stephen King and the other best sellers! Brian Keene’s ‘The Rising’ changed all that though (it was about zombies, I had to buy it!) and I eventually found my way to Gary Braunbeck. I have to say that I’m glad I did, as I haven’t enjoyed horror fiction so much in a long time. ‘In Silent Graves’ is no exception.
As with his other works, Braunbeck delights in pointing the reader down one path only to switch the signposts around when no one is looking. Before you know it you’re completely lost and at the mercy of your guide… The story you finish is not the story you began and, looking back, you will wonder how you ever thought it could have been that story in the first place. There’s some masterful stuff going on here when you look at how everything fits together at the end… (Especially in a book that comes in at just under four hundred pages)
Braunbeck’s approach to horror isn’t specific to any one theme; he goes for as much as he can fit into one book and the result is a story that punches you in the gut at the same time as it’s smacking you round the back of the head. There’s the creeping fear of the dark nestled right next to all out ‘in your face’ violence. There’s the sense of things being horribly wrong for an ordinary man having to deal with stuff straight out of the ‘Twilight Zone’; there’s also the horror that is a part of everyday life and this is perhaps the most horrifying of all the things that happen in the book. All in all a really heady mixture of horror that sent shivers up my spine before ripping it out and feeding it to me.
‘In Silent Graves’ isn’t just a horror story though. Without giving too much away it’s also a love story that bounces off the horror elements (and vice versa) to resonate with poignancy and a sense of the bitter sweet. They weren’t tears in my eyes, I’m just really tired and my eyes are watering (ahem!).
It’s not all perfect though but I got the feeling that these issues would improve on a re-read. Not being of a particularly scientific nature I did find some of the talk about the nature of time confusing and this sometimes dragged on for a little too long, disrupting the otherwise smooth pace of the tale.
Those small niggles aside, ‘In Silent Graves’ is now officially my favourite book by Gary Braunbeck. Read it if you’re into intelligently written horror that makes you think as well as shiver.
Nine and a Half out of Ten