Author: B.R. Collins
Release date: 6th September 2010 UK paperback
Genre: supernatural thriller/young adult
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
Zach and his sister Annis have been uprooted by their parents from their comfortable home to a remote and half-built barn in France. Zach is being removed from his 'bad-influence' friends, their parents are trying to salvage their marriage and still remain on speaking terms whilst the bitterness of their father's affair bubbles underneath the surface. And Annis - Annis just keeps going, keeping her head down, trying to keep it together. So far so normal. And then Zach, uncommunicative and contrary as ever these days, defies everything their parents have said and makes his way to the unsafe ruined building at the edge of their new garden, and leans up against the wall. The wall bulges, totters - and suddenly collapses on top of him. Annis, horrified, sees him crumpled on the ground. Desperate, she races towards him, not daring to think anything at all. She sees him, on the ground, broken, silent, not there any more. And then, unbelievably, he moves. Zach moves. Zach, in an extraordinary and instinctive decision, has broken his bond with his own soul, the essence of himself. By doing so he has cheated death. By doing so he has also cheated life. He is unable to touch any human person again. And the essence of himself, his 'other', his soul, is chasing him, determined to rejoin what should rightfully be together. Zach is on the run, from himself, whom he can never escape, from death, but also from the life that he can never enjoy again. Perhaps only a sister can help him now.
A Trick of the Dark is a supernatural thriller that managed to make the hairs rise on my arms on several occasions. It is a story unlike any other I have ever read, with a unique twist, written in powerful, beautiful and dark prose. I can easily use the word unputdownable.
The Randalls are going through a hard time. The parents, Edward and Helen, are struggling to keep their marriage alive, as Edward had an affair. To save their marriage and their family - because their seventeen-year-old son Zach was expelled from his school due to using drugs - they move from London to France. They want to rebuild an old barn, as well as their marriage and their family. However, Edward and Helen are not the only ones with problems. Zach is troubled and haunted by guilt because he was the one who made his father confess the affair. Annis, Zach's younger sister, is in the midst of it all, sick and tired of all the fighting, but unable to put a stop to it. She depends on her older brother, whom she admires, but he has built a wall between them. The family is on the verge of falling apart, but somehow that does not happen.
At this point, I must compliment the author for dealing with family issues in the midst of the supernatural tension. Collins showed how one stupid mistake made by one person can destroy the whole family and the truth is, the children suffer the most because they are sucked into their parents' fights and accusations, not knowing where to stand and what to do. The tension in the Randall family is very high and they just cannot seem to patch things up. There are too many accusations, too much guilt and too much anger.
Their status quo changes when Zach and Annis go to the ruins across the hill, the one place their parents forbid them to visit on the grounds of it being a dangerous derelict house. They were right; one of the walls collapses and Annis watches it kill her brother. By all laws, Zach should be dead - and then, he moves and stands up, without a scratch marring his skin.
Zach survived because of a sinister occurrence. His shadow detached itself from his soul, becoming an entity on its own, which is a chilling concept and entirely new to me. It was inspired by Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie) and the play is also mentioned several times, as Zach starred as Peter Pan in a school production of the play, which is quite ironic because he ended up actually losing his shadow. Yet while Peter Pan is a fun story, Zach's experience is anything but. Zach himself changes. One day he appears to be ecstatic and completely happy, the next frustrated because he cannot touch anyone any longer and then, suddenly, he is panicked and frightened, claiming that there is a boy after him who wants to kill him. Annis does not know who the boy is, but she has seen him and his darkness is palpable. The relationship between Annis and Zack is very strained because of everything that has happened in the family, but they still love each other and Annis is determined to save her brother - no matter what.
The story is thick with tension and as much as Zach was haunted by his shadow, I felt haunted by the story. It's a dark and powerful narrative, and the suspense is remarkable. The language is wonderful, quite poetic and abstract at times, but most of all, it's very strong. I loved reading this novel for two reasons: the suspense and the language. They are amazing. The one thing I did not appreciate was that it was never explained how Zach was able to detach himself from his shadow. I never learned whether there was something supernatural about the ruins or was it something else. That question remained unanswered. Other than that, this was an amazing story and it is great how the author managed to add family drama to the supernatural tension. The two worked together really well.
As the story evolved, I began to suspect the ending, but it still shocked me because I hoped things could end differently. Still, it's the only possible ending, the way I see it, and I truly liked it.
If you like thrillers, mysteries and a touch of the supernatural, this novel is perfect for you. I truly recommend it.
Becky says: Irena, wow your love for this book really jumps off my screen. I see that you are becoming quite the fan of B.R. Collins. Sounds like it had a twisty, jaw-dropping ending and is brilliantly crafted. What a fab review! Thanks for sharing it with us!
Both our thanks go to Bloomsbury Books for sending the book to review.
UK readers - Don't forget to enter to win a set of three novels by B.R. Collins including A Trick of the Dark.