This short story is described as a gothic victorian suspense, and the author does a great job of setting the scene even if that scene is all too familiar. Set in a remote European castle, cut off from all civilisation, lives the Baron. And, as the first few chapters of A Parish Darker unfolded, I silently pleaded that this wasn’t going to be Dracula or Frankenstein retelling.
All throughout, the quality of writing is excellent and has a definite authenticity for the time period it is set in:
“My departure came shortly thereafter on the 23rd of September, 1891, a Wednesday under a charred, moorish sky even at the peak of daylight.”
“I gave no thought to drawing the curtains by the window to shield from the moonlight, instead feeling some solace in its company as thunder ravaged the sky in brief but furious discharges.”
The story follows Edwin, a mild-mannered gentleman from London, as he recounts his past encounter with the Baron. In an attempt to create suspense, the author, Rhys Empire, continually foreshadows a horrific event that has tortured him for the last 20 years. This foreshadowing became overly repetitive, especially as little of note actually occurs within the first half of the story. This also had the effect of dulling my eventual reaction once the story unveiled.
Once the action eventually started I was genuinely intrigued, trying to constantly guess at the plot and how all the threads would come together. However, when the plot reveal finally came, delivered as an onerous monologue in the final pages, I was left confused and dissatisfied.
Although this is definitely inspired by other classic works of this genre, the author does attempt to create something new. The concept itself was good but could do with some further refinement.