Tim Curran and the guys at DarkFuse have done it again, putting forth another absolutely stellar piece of horror with Deadlock. In terms of tone and subject matter it's definitely closer to Curran's recent Nightcrawlers than to the earlier Worm, but it takes things to a next level with its intensity. It's a novel that gets under your skin and into your head in a way that few authors can manage.
The set-up here is simple. Charlie is gambling addict and a womanizer, deeply in debt to the local loan shark, and secretly sleeping with the man's girlfriend. Fortunately for him, the cheating element seems to have slipped under the radar, with Arturo only concerned with the fifty grand. In fact, he's willing to forgive the entire lump sum, if only Charlie will agree to spend the night in the haunted captain's cabin of the Yvonne Addams, the cursed ship languishing at anchor for the last year.
The ship's history is a tale in and of itself, perfect for a spooky night around the campfire. It's full of holes and assumptions, with witlessness long since dead or missing entirely, but suitably creepy. Fifty grand to survive one night on board seems too good to be true, and the reader can be forgiven for sharing Charlie's doubts as to what Arturo really knows, and what his true intentions with the night's stay may be. That question results in a clever little flourish at the very end, but it's real power is in taking the wind out of Charlie's sails and setting him mentally adrift upon a sea of doubt.
On board, Curran makes the most of the dim, gloomy, cold, claustrophobic atmosphere. Even if the ship weren't said to be haunted, Charlie's descent below decks would be unsettling all on its own. Curran begins messing with the reader almost immediately, however, with the suggestion of things heard, seen, and felt . . . and the intimation of what they might really be. He carefully layers on the fear and the horror, building the story to the point where we're prepared to accept Charlie's strange, bloody dreams as phantom memories of what's gone before. By the time he starts exploring the ship, challenging those dreams, we know in our hearts that things will not end well.
There's a monster at the heart of this tale, worse than any simple spook or poltergeist, and it's immensely exciting to watch as it's slowly revealed. It's the kind of story that leaves you picking at invisible spiderwebs, even as you wander across the room to turn on one more light. Deadlock is not a story that can be accused of being subtle, not by any means, but it is one that's chillingly methodical in the pace at which it builds in intensity. A fantastic read, best consumed in a single, breathless sitting, it shows yet another facet to Curran's literary talents.
Kindle, 190 pages
Expected publication: May 27th 2014 by DarkFuse