by Tony Richards
Review by Colleen Cahill
Eos Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061474668
Date: 01 October 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Not being a horror reader, I would normally pass by a book that focuses on the witches of Salem, but sometimes it pays to not judge a book by its subject. I am very glad I did so with Dark Rain, which is less horror and more a paranormal detective story. Set in the small town of Raine's Landing, Massachusetts, this is a book that combines magic with noir, with mystic powers and hard boiled detectives. The book has it dark side, but with the mystery at its center and some great characters, it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Raine's Landing is an unusual place: magic is everywhere, a heritage of the witches who escaped there just before trials at Salem. Due to a curse laid on the town by one witch, no one born in Raine's Landing can leave and no one from outside finds the place very welcoming. The town has kept up with the times and modern technology makes it seem normal on the surface, but one ride on the public bus, which is unmanned and goes exactly where its rider wants, makes it clear this is not your average burg.
Even crime can here can be magical and that is why Ross Devries and Cassandra Mallory have set up themselves as "security consultants", to investigate those cases that are beyond the local police. When every man, woman and child are slaughtered on a suburban street, Ross and Cass step in; not because they are magicians, in fact both hate magic as it destroyed their families, but because they want to prevent it from doing the same to others.
The one clue from the massacre is an arrowhead with the work "SARUAK" on it. This clue proves to be deadly when the owner sends his "pet" to retrieve it and the pair learn that they are facing a frightening force. Unlike other cities, the locals cannot leave Raine's Landing, making it a perfect spot for Saruak to feed on human fears and flesh.
Your first thought might be why aren't the magical big-wigs in Raine's Landing addressing this issue. Certainly the adepts of upper crust Sycamore Hill are aware that something is going on, but from Woodward Raine, heir of the town founder to the mysterious Little Girl, none can quite see the intruder. They can tell he is not human and they can also tell he is more powerful than any of them.
It is ironic that Ross, perhaps the one person in town who has never tried any magic, has the most luck at finding out who and what this being is and more importantly, what he wants from Raine's Landing. It soon becomes clear that the 285th Reunion celebration, an annual attempt to break the curse on Raine's Landing, is going to be a catastrophe unless Ross and Cass can find a way to stop Saruak.
Richards does a great job of giving out the background of the town and its populace a bit a time, tantalizing us with glimpses of a fascinating place. Even the seemly lowest members of the community, such a lady of the evening, have an interesting past, as in the one Ross finds who has eyes that are "tiny pale-blue globes of light." This helped draw me in, and while there certainly was violence in this tale, it was not gratuitous, instead providing one of the many edges that keep this a page-turning book. A definite must read for those into dark fantasy, paranormal fiction or just a good book, Dark Rain is well worth a look.