Where Furnaces Burn
by Joel Lane
Cover Artist: Wednesbury by Night in the 19th Century. The artist is unknown.
Courtesy of Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
Review by Mario Guslandi
PS Publishing Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781848634855
Date: 01 September 2012 List Price £19.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Supernatural noir is a subgenre surfacing now and then in dark literature. I don't mean just the stories featuring so-called "occult detectives", such as Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin or William Hope Hogdson's Carnacki,The Ghost Finder, where the paranormal or the supernatural is the key theme and the investigation is only a kind of frame built around it, but tales where normal crime cases reveal an unexpected, inexplicable not quite human nature.
Joel Lane is a renowned British horror writer with a strong bent for the noir (years ago, for example, he co-edited the successful anthology Birmingham Noir). Over the years, he has penned a number of tales along that line, scattered among a number of anthologies and magazines.
Those twenty-six stories, narrated by a Birmingham cop -- married and has a daughter -- reporting a number of unusual cases encountered during his long career, are now collected in a single volume by UK-based imprint PS Publishing. All the tales are very good, so Iíll mention only those which impressed me more.
"Even the Pawn" is a gripping crime story about the murder of a young escort from East Europe, ending with an unpredictable paranormal twist.
"Without A Mind" is a creepy tale featuring murderous alien creatures (the anti-people) affecting the inhabitants of a small town as well as the private lives of two local cops.
In the extremely disturbing "The Sunken City" two policemen follow the traces of an unconventional murderer with an odd modus operandi.
The outstanding "A Mouth to Feed" discloses the truth behind the death of a cop's girlfriend while the equally superb "The Victim Card" probes the complex personality of a young man apparently the victim of a puzzling killing.
Two other fascinating pieces are the grim "Bethís Law", set in a particularly dark Birmingham atmosphere, and "Point of Departure" which is an eerie story where long forgotten dreams and ghostly, vicious dogs haunt a staircase in the city center.
In the final story in the volume, the gloomy "Facing the Wall", our cop gets divorced and is involved in a personal investigation about unsolved murders concealing a dark world of corruption, vice and supernatural evil.
Lane is a gifted author, a master in creating unsettling atmospheres surrounding the events of a dreary urban life where human wickedness is not less frightening than paranormal fiendishness.