Jimmy Kerrigan is a writer living in small-town Hobson’s Valley. An outsider with an inexplicable fear of the dark, Kerrigan is something of a mystery to those in the community. The opening scenes with Randall Moore, the proprietor of a local store, suggest that Jimmy is about as welcome as a bout of chlamydia, which is something that he is aware of but remains unable to remedy, other than altering where he chooses to buy his groceries from.
Not only does he suffer from severe nyctophobia, Kerrigan also has unexplained blackouts; periods in which strange things occur. He knows that something integral has happened, and yet it remains just beyond him.
When terrible things befall those around him, Kerrigan begins to investigate more thoroughly, and uncovers a curse in the form of a virus known as the Fugue. Like a plague, it has survived for centuries around Hobson’s Valley, controlled only by those aware of its existence. Kerrigan comes from a long line of Fugue Hunters, and although he is infected with the disease – a variant strain known as Lethe, which affords him the ability to heal Fugues – he’s tasked with hunting those infected and, one way or the other, vanquishing its effects.
What makes the Fugue so compelling, however, is not what it pushes the infected to do, but that it causes them to forget they have done anything at all. The only trouble is that Kerrigan, who is responsible for taking care of any unruly outbreaks of Fugue, is also oblivious of anything amiss, at least until it’s too late in most cases. Between discovering his own origins – in some very heartwarming scenes with his adopters, Kath and Burt – and battling the increasingly formidable virus affecting the residents of Hobson’s Valley, Kerrigan is soon out of his depth.
D’Lacey’s books have often been referred to as eco-horror, and it is easy to see why. Blood Fugue is set so deep in the forest that you can practically smell the damp pine, and the Fugue could be a metaphor for any number of soon-to-be-extinct species attempting to stage one final comeback.
What is clear as soon as you crack open the spine – or boot up your Kindle – on Blood Fugue is that you’re in for some truly wonderful writing. D’Lacey has a knack for beautiful prose the likes of which King or Laymon would be proud. The scenes which should be revolting – those where the infected succumb to the Fugue and begin to feed – are actually deeply erotic, bringing some semblance of respect back to the over-romanticised vampires of recent years. The scenes where the afflicted go full-blown Fugue are some of the best in the book, and it’s here that D’Lacey really shines. The imageries created as the transformations take place are reminiscent of old-school horror such as The Thing, and just as intense as anything Rob Bottin could construct without the added mess of liquid latex and cement glue.
The climax featuring an assimilated tree is like something recorded from one of Clive Barker’s nightmares, and there’s a hint of a twist, perhaps enough to suggest that we haven’t seen the end of Jimmy Kerrigan, though that could just be wishful thinking. Whether there’s a sequel to Blood Fugue or not, it will be interesting to see if Joseph D’Lacey can maintain this degree of excellence; and with Angry Robot’s upcoming release of Black Feathers – the first book in D’Lacey’s Black Dawn duology – there appears to be very little standing in his way.
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