The Damned, Tarn Richardson (Duckworth @ Co.)

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The first installment of the Darkest Hour trilogy introduces us to Poldek Tacit, a Vatican Inquisitor – the novel is set in an alternate timeline in which the Inquisition did not end in the 19th century – dispatched to World War I France to investigate a series of brutal murders. But Tacit soon discovers there’s something even more distressing going on: something evil, something inhuman, is killing the soldiers in the trenches.

I won’t keep you in suspense. It’s werewolves. In this alternate timeline, werewolves are not merely creatures of mythology; they’re living, breathing creatures. And they’re not friendly.

Richardson is a fine writer. He has a real flair for the visual; his descriptions are vivid and memorable (the human-to-werewolf transformation scenes are especially well executed) and the book has a powerful feeling of dread and lurking evil.

The story might possibly be a bit more convoluted than it needs to be – the author skips back and forth in time, showing us Tacit’s early life and the events that led him to become the tortured man he is now – but I’m not sure there was another way Richardson could have constructed the story that wouldn’t have required lengthy and dull passages of raw exposition. I know that when I was reading a part of the story set in the past I wanted to get back to the main story as quickly as possible. Perhaps that’s just me being impatient.

This is an impressive novel. If you like a good werewolf story, you’ll want to read it.

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