Falls the Darkness
Mark N. Drake
January 30, 2024
Reviewed by Andrew Byers
Over the last few years, Mark N. Drake has created and extensively developed a fictional place, Darkisle, a foreboding island inhabited by Lovecraftian horrors and cultists, where he has set three previous novels, The Gathering Shadows, Those Under the Hill, and What Festers Within, as well as several short stories. Drake has returned to Darkisle with his fourth novel, Falls the Darkness, continuing the adventures of two-fisted 1920s-era detective Jack Glennison as he battles against various occultists and Mythos horrors. I had a lot of fun with this one, as I did the first three books in the series—it’s a terrific blend of Cthulhu Mythos lore with pulpy action and thoughtful investigation.
I don’t want to give too much away about the Mythos horrors that await Jack, but I will say that it takes as its foundation my favorite cosmic horror story: HPL’s “The Colour Out of Space.” ‘Nuff said. Here, Jack has been hired by his friend, the wealthy occultist Sir Charles Deverby, who we’ve met previously, to locate a missing employee. The employee was part of a team sent to a rural area of Darkisle to locate more pieces of a meteorite that has…odd properties. When Jack gets there, he finds plenty of intrigue among the remaining members of the team. Also, the locals don’t want him or the team nosing around in their affairs, and there is clearly something extremely dangerous inhabiting the heath where the meteorite fragments can be found. All the components of a great Lovecraft-inspired mystery are here.
Drake is a meticulously detailed plotter who I always trust to get the details right. Past reviews of Drake’s work have noted the clarity of his prose. Like all of its Darkisle predecessors, at no point does the plot of Falls the Darkness depend on characters doing stupid things or behaving irrationally; everyone here behaves sensibly and according to their own best interests. Glennison is a smart, methodical investigator. Drake plays it straight with the reader, which I very much appreciate: there is an actual mystery to be solved here, and Glennison systematically sets out to gather clues. He finds them, and the reader has access to all of them as he does so. When the resolution of the central mystery is presented at the end of the novel, you, the reader, had all the same clues that Glennison had access to. Drake’s writing is always satisfying and well-crafted.
Drake is very good at telegraphing the direction of his next Darkisle novels at the end of each book, and it seems that the next novel—one that I’m already anticipating—will finally return to the site of Jack’s university days where something terrible happened and exposed him to his first brush with cosmic horrors. I have been looking forward to learning more about that since it was first alluded to in Glennison’s inaugural outing, so I can’t wait to see how this next one turns out. Jack, his assistant Josine, and the host of secondary characters who surround them become more fully realized with each novel in the series. Though it may be trite to say, Darkisle itself is as much a character in the novel as anyone else. I now have a clearer sense of this benighted island than some real-world places I have visited!
Falls the Darkness is very much recommended, though if you’re new to Drake’s Darkisle, I suggest you start with the first in the series, The Gathering Shadows, as each novel really does build on everything that came before it.
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