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The Absence / Bill Hussey

Bloody Books / April 2009
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

Joe Nightingale killed his mother. Didn’t he? It certainly wasn’t his mother’s idea to go shopping that day and pick out the perfect gift for Samantha, his new girlfriend. Mother was just along for the ride. If she hadn’t gone with...if she had been the one driving...maybe she’d still be alive. It’s been months since her death and Joe can’t seem to stop blaming himself. Joe needs someone to tell him that he is not to blame. It would be nice if those words came from his father, Richard, or his brother, Bobby. But Mother’s death has changed them. Their silence on the matter is creating a rift in the family. The “Absence” is taking hold.

Bobby is still reeling from Mother’s death when he finds his friend, Matt, dead in the school locker room. While Matt’s parents struggle to make sense of their son’s apparent suicide, Bobby lies to them, claiming not to know why Matt took his own life. Matt’s ghost haunts Bobby over his inability to admit the truth.

Bobby isn’t the only one keeping secrets. Richard, his father, has plenty of his own. When the Nightingale family receives the news that they’ve inherited an old house from a distant relative, Richard jumps on the chance to escape from his shadows. A summer at Daecher’s Mill might just be the cure this family needs to overcome their tragic losses. The lure of escape should have been a warning that something darker awaits them.

As the Nightingales attempt to settle in their new home, strange things begin happening. They learn that a child was murdered here many years ago. Many people have been called to Daecher’s Mill in the years since and the ones who left alive were never quite the same. Why does Joe feel so connected to a place that should have no meaning to him?

The Absence is Bill Hussey’s second novel. His first effort - 2008's Through a Glass, Darkly - garnered high praise. Hussey’s work has been deemed worthy of comparison with horror greats such as Ramsey Campbell. While Hussey’s storytelling skill is impressive, only time will tell if such early remarks are truly deserved.

Much of novel’s execution is flawless. However, there were a few moments when it felt like the characters were not acting as they should. Bobby seems wise beyond his years. At times, some of the dialogue feels contrived and preachy. While the imagery at the end is sufficiently creepy, this reviewer would have liked an ending with a bit more ambiguity.

That said, the quality of the writing and the story itself was good enough to pique this reviewer’s interest in reading Hussey’s debut. Hussey may or may not pan out to be the “new” Ramsey Campbell or Clive Barker, but he’s definitely a writer worth reading and one to watch out for in the years to come.

Purchase The Absence by Billy Hussey.

Posted on Saturday, April 11, 2009 at 08:19AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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