Cursed by Paul M. Feeney
Book four in Demain Publishing’s Murder! Mystery! Mayhem! Line, which focuses on crime fiction, tests the limits of the definition with ‘Cursed’ offering a detective noir mystery tale with strong horror elements, throwing cursed DVDs and magical crime families into the mix.
Garrison Wake is a Private Investigator. He is also a shapeshifter, using his supernatural talents to solve the cases that nobody else can. If you’ve been cursed by witches, are being haunted by real-life demons, or have a problem only magic can solve, he is the man you want on your case.
When a new client comes to him with claims that she has been cursed by a mysterious movie she received anonymously in her mailbox, Garrison thinks it sounds like a lot of Hollywood nonsense, but as he digs a little deeper, he uncovers a much deeper and more deadly conspiracy at work.
Supernatural detectives are far from a new concept, and both horror and crime literature are littered with them (Harry Dresden, John Constantine, Carnacki and Repairman Jack to name just a few) but their popularity persists. Possibly because they are a great deal of fun to follow, presenting readers with an unsolvable mystery that only the supernatural can explain. It offers up a lot of exciting avenues to explore without the limits imposed on your everyday sleuths.
As occult gumshoes go, Garrison Wake isn’t the most likeable. He is rather gruff, a little jaded, and more than a bit arrogant. Outside of that, we don’t get much of an opportunity to get to know him, why he does what he does, or what makes him tick. It’s a shame because the world he inhabits is a very high-concept and well-realised one. There are mentions of all manner of supernatural creatures, and hidden worlds behind our own, and we get small but tantalising glimpses behind the curtain, but Feeney keeps a lot of the fantasy-horror elements largely reigned in. It certainly made me keen to read more stories in this world, because there feels like there is a lot more still to be told.
In terms of story, what starts out as an intriguing and unusual set-up (the nod to ‘The Ring’ movie series is overtly acknowledged) and moves onto a seemingly standard investigation has an unexpected shift in the third act when all is revealed. It’s a great reveal, very in keeping with the tone, which balances a fine line between broody and fantastical, and certainly leaves a lasting impression.
Cursed is a solid introduction to a promising new character. There is an impressive amount of world-building achieved in a relatively short story and the world Garrison inhabits is rich, vividly described and filled with striking characters and unique concepts. I would certainly be on board for another visit to the Shadow World and some further cases for this shapeshifting sleuth. 4 Stars
Review by Richard Martin
Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.