Writer of Horror Fiction

Review of Alan Draven’s “Nocturnal Offerings”

Nocturnal Offerings is another return (sort of) of the author’s town of Bitternest, a foggy city in Louisiana not too far from New Orleans.  But this story, which is broken into two parts, starts out in Montreal, which happens to be the author’s hometown.  Nick Kubrick, a radio host from Bitternest, has headed north to visit his brother Chris who has moved to Canada.  But upon arriving at his brother’s house, he realizes that his sibling has disappeared-his house appears to be abandoned, mail from the past several weeks clogs his mailbox, and a little girl who lives next door said some men came by and took him away in a hearse some time ago.

While pondering this mystery, Nick stumbles across an acquaintance that he went to high school with that now also lives in Montreal.  Lance is a successful architect who designed the gated community he and his wife lives in and he invites Nick to stay with him while he is in town.  Nick soon discovers that the neighborhood is just a bit ‘off’.  Everyone who lives there are beautiful, there are no children, no pets, and no one over the age of forty.  His sense of foreboding is capped off with a midnight visit to a part of the neighborhood where the women who live there dance naked in the moonlight.  But he isn’t quite sure whether it was a dream he was having or the start of an odd new mystery filled with witches and rituals making this strange place even stranger.

On top of these two puzzles, Nick stumbles across a young girl who is running from some strange creature, or so it seems, as he drives into Montreal.  He later discovers that there have been three deaths in the city over the past few days-bodies are found with the skin peeled off and the hearts removed.  A serial killer appears to be on the loose and he wonders if the girl he had come across could have been its next victim.

The first part of the book focuses on the mystery around the strange suburban neighborhood and its equally strange inhabitants whose sexual appetites are pretty over the top.  Nick meets up with a librarian who he befriends that is willing to help him uncover what is going on in Elysium Cove, along with helping him try and figure out what has happened to his brother.

The book moves back to Bitternest later on, where the murders that happened in Montreal seem to lead to the possibility that a serial killer might be crisscrossing North America with Louisiana as its final destination.

The author has continued developing an intriguing world where Bitternest, Louisiana is the centerpiece.  While it’s clear he has an appreciation for his hometown of Montreal, he seems more comfortable writing about this eerie, foggy place which dark forces call home.  What brings Nick to Montreal-visiting his brother-seems quite secondary to what ends up being the driving force behind why he stays.  Figuring out what happened to Chris takes a backseat to the odd neighborhood with the strangely beautiful women.  It seems a tremendous coincidence that Nick stumbles across an old acquaintance so far from home.  It almost seemed as if the author decided that a tale of a missing brother wasn’t all that interesting and dismissed it so he could devote his efforts to fun and games with the devilish women of Elysium Cove.  Not that this particular tale wasn’t entertaining, but the stage was set for there to be more during Nick’s time in Montreal.

Nick is a rascal.  That isn’t a term that is heard much these days, but that is perhaps the best way to describe him.  His affection for the young, pretty librarian who helps him out doesn’t seem to temper his lust for the lascivious women who seduce him during his stay at the mysterious subdivision in Montreal.  The fact that the librarian maintains her affection for him despite his admitted indiscretions with those strange women required a bit of suspension of disbelief, even if supernatural forces were the culprit for his dalliances.

The return to Bitternest for the second part of this tale felt like the more natural environment for overall story being told.  The author has a fondness for Montreal that bleeds through in his descriptions of it and its inhabitants clashes with the gritty doom of his tales.  Bitternest is a far more welcome abode for these dances into darkness.  Bitternest isn’t just a setting; it is an ever present character whose moods and whims influence each story that takes place within its boundaries.  It pulses with lifeblood of its own.  That is the case here, even with this slight tale of a monstrous serial killer whose path may have led them from Montreal down to southern Louisiana in a strange cycle that takes place every twenty seven years.  Nick is at home here-a character who does his best to debunk myths and rumors of monsters on his radio show-much like Kolchak from days of yore, but who seems to keep discovering that the things which go bump in the night are horribly real.  He hooks up with a private detective hot on the trail of a serial killer with some secrets of his own, despite Nick’s promises that his hunting days are behind him.

Overall, this is a satisfactory entry into the Bitternest saga, though there was a desire for more from the Montreal side of things-especially with the missing brother side of the story.  Bitternest is a fun place to visit and I look forward to future trips to this foggy, grim place chock full of nightmares.

Nocturnal Offerings can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Nocturnal-Offerings-Alan-Draven/dp/0615906842/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

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