A review of Through A Glass, Darkly by Bill Hussey

Reviewed by Geoff Nelder

Through A Glass, Darkly
by Bill Hussey
Bloody Books
July 2008, ISBN: 9781905636280, Paperback, 440 pages

Through A Glass, Darkly is a noir novel of what might lurk beneath the thin veneer of rural life unlike any other I’ve read. It is a ghost story, and yet not the kind you’d hope to encounter at the Ancient Ram Inn in Wotton-Under-Edge. Read this book and you might never want to read a book about evil, murder and suffer-little-children again. You might not want to read anything again!

Yet the tone isn’t completely black. Somehow Hussey injects just the right dose of humour to keep you alive. Sometimes it’s that smile in-the-face-of-adversity survival irony that I really enjoy. For example in the midst of a police investigation going belly-up we read: ‘The lamp on Janski’s desk exploded. Grains of glass showered papers, files and the DCI’s collection of stress balls.’ Excellent.

The sleepy village of Crow Haven hides a secret so dire no one seems to know more than segments. Ancient libraries, guilt-ridden folk lore and grisly murders drive this story into hidden rooms and dark forests – both literally and of the mind. A double-helix love interest afflicts the two main characters; both police officers with a common interest to protect a young boy and yet they are poles apart in their inner secrets. Hussey is a master landscape painter leaving the reader in no doubt of the Fenland setting, especially the skies, and the characters’ moods. The narrative can seem languorous at times, but perhaps the pacing needs to be slower at times to give the reader’s brain and emotions time to catch up.

Phrases I wish I’d written include these nuggets: ‘Prejudice (in the Police Force) was like herpes. It took a bit of self-exploration to find it, then it could be treated, but … flared up again.’ or ‘Attics are the soul of a house because of the memories stored in boxes up there.’ Often I’m reminded of Tibor’s Fischer’s love of words in his Collector, Collector when in Hussey’s book I encounter such magic phrases as: ‘by some strange alchemy of thought’.

Bill Hussey attempts to view through the inner person, an ethereal being inhabiting a kind of evil dimension. This is no straight-forward ghost story, but an exploration into the monsters of the id, so to speak. This is an incredibly difficult task to undertake as it requires the reader and the writer to share their imagination: a meeting of minds. In his On Writing, Stephen King says that writing ideas and people reading and absorbing those ideas is like telepathy. Bill Hussey has a damn good stab at that, and I believe he succeeds. At one level this story is about two detectives solving grisly murders and desperately finding victims before their demise. On another level, the senior of the two, Jack, is fighting his own demons, which become implicated in his current case. The element of the supernatural lifts this book from a Colin Dexter crime story to one with more dimensions than a quantum physicist would want. You’d think it may be too much for a normal human brain to take in, but it isn’t too complex; more satisfyingly deep.

Hussey has been kind to the reader by slicing his novel into bed-time-reading sized chapters. But unless you like your nightmares to be as ‘jittery as a dog full of fleas’ then read Through a Glass Darkly on a bright summer’s day.

About the reviewer: Geoff Nelder (61) one wife, 2 kids, 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, Exit, Pursued by Bee, published by Double Dragon 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, and is a publisher at BeWrite Books.