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Craig's Book Club
Book Recommendations

Spotlight on: Pine Shallow by Darrin Wilson


To arrange to have products considered for review, send an email to craigsbookclub@yahoo.com.


Pine Shallow by Darrin Wilson Darrin Wilson, Pine Shallow (The Serpent Prophecies)

Some novels make a really good first impression and then disappoint you as they go along, delivering an unsatisfying ending more often than not. Pine Shallow, the debut novel from Darrin Wilson, was just the opposite, making a poor first impression but getting better soon after.

I should explain. For most people, the hardest part of writing a novel is the beginning. There have been many books written about grabbing your reader on the first page and to introduce main characters, their history and idiosyncracies, without stopping the flow of the story. Wilson does this well. The scene involving the death of Father Ben Hannah at the hands of something otherworldly is riveting. Unfortunately, Wilson then spends the next several pages talking about his lead character Matt Blackwood. He ignores the old maxim "show, don't tell," telling us everything he thinks we need to know in preparation to getting on with the story. Just check out page 14 for a glaring example of information that would have been best introduced within the context of the story, instead of stopping everything short. Fortunately, these are problems that can be easily fixed by the employment of a competent copy editor.

But, even if Wilson is not yet a great writer, he shows tremendous talent as a storyteller. The bulk of Pine Shallow is the tale itself, and Wilson's fast-paced style suits his ideas perfectly. And what ideas they are! I was continually surprised by the author's innovation and the fact that he kept surprising me with various twists and turns. In addition, his characterizations are top-rate. Blackwood, his parents, his son Eric, bookseller Harker Jeffries, and supernatural experts Carmen Fenwick and daughter Pamela are drawn clearly, making the reader care what happens to them throughout the course of the book.

Matt Blackwood is a "charge," meaning he was born without a soul. This makes him the perfect conduit for the dark energy that has recently begun flowing through his little hamlet of Pine Shallow, California. When trees move themselves and Eric begins channeling Christopher Columbus' shipmates, we are clued in that things are about to go very wrong. Carmen sends him to rare bookseller Harker Jeffries, who introduces Matt to an ancient text that can help him discover his plight and what he has to do about it. This portion of Pine Shallow was reminiscent of Arturo Perez-Reverte's book The Club Dumas--a personal favorite--and was the part I liked best, but I'm very interested in rare books.

The rest of the story follows Matt as he attempts to protect his family from the evil, while trying to avoid being used as a further conduit. This is where Wilson shines. Despite sometimes clunky phrasing, his writing is clear and moves along at a steadily increasing pace, drawing the reader further and further into his web. The ending is fairly predictable but that did not keep me from picking up the book every free moment to immerse myself back into the tale. This book is a rarity, a thriller that really thrills and a horror novel that truly horrifies. Greater skill will come with more writing. In the meantime, I truly enjoyed reading Pine Shallow and I look forward to see what Wilson produces in the future.



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