By Keri O’Shea
Daniel Gates is what you would call a fixer – a man of ways and means, someone who works to acquire rare artefacts for people whose conventional methods have turned up nothing. He does this for a steep fee, of course, but he is good at what he does. When he successfully procures an unusual mirror for a wealthy client, he is given a second assignment thanks to this initial success; he is sent to Scotland, to exchange an ancient magical text for an incredibly rare whisky, but in so doing he is capitulated into a hitherto unknown world, peopled with dangerous entities and immeasurably dark forces…
Intended as the first in an upcoming series of books based around the character of Daniel Gates, The Lucifer Glass is an engaging introduction, with Gates showing the hallmarks of a promisingly solid character. Care is taken to establish him as a fleshed-out creation with a credible inner life, although – bearing in mind that there is much more yet to come in the series – you won’t receive all the answers here. As an example of this, one of his chief motivations in this part of the story is held back until close to the end of the book, and this further builds the impression that the character is intended for the longer game. The Lucifer Glass certainly does enough to encourage a reader to want to stay with the upcoming series; the balance between what it says and what it withholds is confidently-wrought.
The novella format seems exactly right for this tale, ideal for balancing the worldly against the otherworldly. There is a lot of action in the book (perhaps partly due to author Frazer Lee’s other work as a screenwriter and horror director, lots happens which is easy to visualise and follow) but there’s an economy to the writing style which matches well with the overall march of the plot; you can be evocative without requiring hundreds of pages. There’s an abundance of very sensual descriptive language here, by which I mean that all senses are catered for, with smell, touch, taste as important as sight or sound. This can be pleasant – the importance of the feel of cool water, or the scent of whisky, for instance – or it can be hideous, invoked during some deeply visceral scenes which are difficult to forget. I particularly winced at one description of the sensation of walking over scattered teeth…
Alongside these unsettling sequences, however, The Lucifer Glass displays a playfulness, unable to restrain itself from knowing nods towards horror and occult references. For instance, the wealthy client who sends Gates up North goes by the name of Master/Roth…recognise the ol’ demonic presence lurking in that one? There’s also fun to be had with a Crowley reference or two here and there. The mirror motif, though itself only part of the puzzle, is also a familiar one for lovers of occult horror, and I couldn’t help thinking of the Hammer House of Horror ‘Guardian of the Abyss’ episode during the first chapters. Essentially, The Lucifer Glass is aware of its status as part of an occult horror tradition and is open with that, doing plenty in its own right to forge in its own direction, but also wearing its heart on its sleeve.
Confident, collected and entertaining, The Lucifer Glass is a page-turner, and it will be very interesting to see where we go from here. As the first entrant in a new series, it promises great things indeed, and lovers of occult horror should take the chance to support the series from the get-go.
The Lucifer Glass will be released by Samhain Publishing on 4th June 2013