[From Critical Wave #31, 1993. Both the Little, Brown hardback and subsequent paperback are currently available via Amazon.]
Curiously, the impact of Fowler’s novels operates in inverse proportion to the weight of genre elements he introduces into the plot. Bizarre as the hidden society of Roofworld might have been, there are many less plausible ‘mainstream’ thrillers; Rune‘s updating of M R James’ classic short story ‘Casting the Runes’ (or, perhaps more accurately, Night of the Demon, Jacques Tourneur’s 1957 adaptation), on the other hand, jettisons its predecessor’s atmosphere in favour of dodgy pseudoscience.
Darkest Day, I’m pleased to report, returns to familiar ground, with Fowler regulars John May and Arthur Bryant (now in charge of a prototype police squad dedicated to investigating the oddball and uncanny) unraveling a complex web of colonial intrigue, family dishonour and voodoo slavery in the heart of London. At nearly 600 pages, the action is a mite stretched, but it’s a sin soon forgiven when balanced against Fowler’s ear for characterisation and his favourite city’s secret history.