Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Blood Fugue by Joseph D’Lacey
Published by Proxima Books
Fugue is a wonderful word to use in a title. Fugue for a Darkening Island by Christopher Priest for example. However, it isn’t just in the title in Blood Fugue, but as a premise. Fugue in the non-musical sense relates to a loss or change in identity, Jimmy Kerrigan isn’t human in the normal sense, and yet he is one of the good guys. So was his father, also Fugue, or was until he transformed into another stage. The novel reaches into our souls and either takes or plants emotions of fear and a kind of holistic unMother Nature from the woods into our veins vicariously through the characters in Blood Fugue.
Most of the action, reaction, fear and hope occurs in the forest. It reminds me so much of the Mythago Wood series by Robert Holdstock, but the horror in D’Lacey’s novel digs deeper, and the writing more subtle and literary. I have a fascination with forests ever since I bivouacked in snowbound Cranham Woods, Gloucestershire, as a young boy scout for my woodland badge. Hence I wandered through the woods in Blood Fugue with knowing familiarity, and that was my mistake. Now I cannot visit my favourite local forest, Delamere, without a primed flame-thrower. Whereas before, the gnarled boughs, pine aromas, whirling acer seeds were a source of admiration and delight, they now represent danger, evil. From being a well-balanced individual, I am now Dendrophobic. Thanks.
Even Jimmy Kerrigan, our lone wannabe saviour, is surprised to learn that in his woods is a giant tree. At first intrigued, he becomes afraid. Fearful for the safety of the exploring family he is compelled to rescue and also for the townspeople of Hobson’s Valley. What is it about giant trees? That one of Jimmy’s is a Cthulhu meets Sherwood – terrifying. I encountered a giant tree in Kill Bill Wood this summer. Ah, no, Kit Bill Wood, you know – near Over Kellet near Carnforth. A great Ash tree has marked a boundary there for centuries and lives on to watch over transgressors. I hugged it, because I had yet to read Blood Fugue.
D’Lacey is a master of fine character detail. Shopkeeper Randall had spatulate fingers – where the ends are wider – murderers’ fingers. It made me look carefully at mine. To show readers the setting of Jimmy’s place the reader is treated to what he imagines his visitors see and think. An expert example of vicarious Show – rare to see it done so well. Blood Fugue could be criticised for being too incredible but to me disbelief is suspended for a moment enough for it to all be true!
If you enjoy eroticism in the woods, being terrified in an arboretum, and want a horror story, beautifully written yet will shake you to the core, then read Blood Fugue by Joseph D’Lacey.
About the reviewer: Geoff Nelder lives in rural England within easy cycle rides of the Welsh mountains. One humorous thriller novel, Escaping Reality has been published, and his recent novel is a science fiction mystery, ARIA: Left Luggage, published by Logical-Lust Publishing. Other SF/F novels are hungry to be published following a minor deluge of humour, crime and horror short stories. Geoff is an editor for Adventure Books of Seattle.