The tension that comes with the territory in a story about an abducted child suddenly turns eerie when the family begins seeing strange people in the vicinity of their home and hearing the giggles and whisperings of Henry – who remains frustratingly out of sight. The atmosphere is influenced by the presence of a cemetery close to their home, both of which, by the way, are surrounded by woods. The caretaker of the cemetery, who lives on the grounds, is creepy Elias Hatch who has a friendship with a Catholic priest whose best intentions do not seem as straightforward as he wants everyone to believe. When it becomes clear that the strange people roaming the cemetery are ghosts, the mystery turns to horror as the supernatural elements rev the story into high gear.
Before the novel concludes, the reader is treated to secret underground passageways below the cemetery, crystal skulls that generate impossibly strong electromagnetic waves that leave traces of the skull long after it is removed from a location, rituals for raising the dead, more ghosts than you can count, discussions of transcendentalism, secret Vatican organizations, police procedural investigations, the poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the One True Cross, and heaven knows what else I am forgetting.
This summary may seem like a confusing mess of genres, but amazingly it is not. The story is wildly fascinating, and all of the plot lines dovetail nicely together. The conclusion, in which everything comes together, blew me away – I mean, I was really stunned.
The setting was very captivating. The home, woods, and cemetery were characters in their own right. Ms. Cappa described them so clearly that I could “see” the paths through the woods, the damp grounds of the cemetery and the dripping grave markers. The characters of Antonia and Adam were very well drawn. The anguish they display as they await the news of their son is portrayed vividly. Elias is fascinating when he is “on stage”, and even Henry, in his absence, seems astoundingly real.
If I have any criticism it would be the portrayal of the detective investigating the case – which is unfortunate because his point of view takes up at least one-fourth of the novel. My understanding of police investigations is based solely on what I have read and learned in novels and on TV shows like CSI New York and Law and Order. All by way of saying, my take on this might be incorrect, but here goes. The detective seemed to be reacting to events as they happened instead of investigating. Also, professional boundaries seem to be lacking in his decision making. He includes the parents in various aspect of the investigation, including interviews and access to crime scenes. I kept wondering if his behavior would destroy evidence or harm the legal case against a suspect. As result, his character just didn’t ring true to me and his behavior distracting.
The Dazzling Darkness is not a traditional horror story full of shock and gore. Despite everything going on, it is a “quiet novel. I do not mean boring, far from it. I couldn't put the book down. Rather, the intensity comes from wondering what in the hell is going on as the author throws one curve after another. The novel is beautifully written and quite surprising in many ways. Highly recommended.