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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Book Review: THE DEAD PATH by Stephen M. Irwin

------Review by contributing writer Scott Baker------

THE DEAD PATH
by Stephen M. Irwin

When Hayes told me he got a book in the mail to review, I asked him if I could do it before he even told me the title. You see, I’m a big-time reader. Hard to believe, I know, since I love movies so much, but it’s true. Heck, I like books so much that I have about 500 of them at home.

I especially like to read books that I know nothing about; that way, I have no preconceived notions about it. So when I got The Dead Path from Hayes, I jumped right into reading it without so much as reading the inside of the jacket. And I’m proud to say the book drew me in so well that I finished it in four days.

If you’re not familiar with The Dead Path, here’s the plot, courtesy of Amazon.com:

Australian author Irwin's impressive debut, a supernatural thriller, evokes a world full of death and spirits to which we are, mercifully, oblivious. Since the night of his wife's death, Nicholas Close has been cursed with second sight to see ghosts re-enacting the final moments before their own often violent deaths. These disconcerting visions drive Nicholas back to his family home in Tallong, Australia, where, instead of finding comfort, he sees the ghost of a childhood playmate replay the murder that almost took Nicholas's life instead. Clues from other local murders and data gleaned from his father's books of occult lore apprise Nicholas of ancient unhallowed traditions still being practiced in the forest near his home--and of malignant powers attempting to reassert a balance that was upset when Nicholas escaped death.

Let me start by saying this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. This is Irwin’s first book, but you would never guess that. He has a unique style of prose that captures each scene in vivid detail and breathes more life into the simplest of scenes. Irwin is truly a master of his craft and does not disappoint.

The story Irwin weaves is dark and filled with raw feeling. His word-weaving conveys so much emotion that I found myself growing cold and withdrawn, like I was the main character Nicholas himself. To illicit a response like this in a veteran reader like myself…wow. I knew this book was a winner.

The true joy of this book for me is that the description above from Amazon does not truly scratch the surface of the story. Irwin has imbedded many different types of stories within the main plot, including mythology, historical fiction, fantasy, horror, and even (slightly, in a skewed sort of way) romance. This cross-genre molding works brilliantly for the story and gives more credibility to his voice.

My favorite aspect of The Dead Path is Irwin’s unique method of description. Whether by simile or metaphor, Irwin is a master of wording and practices his craft frequently within the text. Several times, I found myself wandering back to specific descriptions with a smile on my face, reliving the vivid imagery that the initial read presented. A few choice selections that stuck out to me were:

“Words spilled out of the woman like marbles from a split sack.”

“The aircraft cabin was as dark as a cinema.”

“The bones of a city don’t change. Perhaps its skin grows tight or flaccid as suburbs grow fashionable or become déclassé; crow’s feet spread from pockets – new streets, new arteries into fresh corpulence. But the skeleton of its founding roads, the blood of its river, the skull of the low mountain that looms over it with its thorny crown of television towers like its own blinking Calvary…these things hadn’t changed.”

“The word hung in the air like despair in a dying man’s bedroom.”

The Dead Path is an excellent book all the way around, and one that I will definitely revisit again in the near future. If you’re looking for a nice combination of dread, suspense, and terror, give this one a look. You won’t be disappointed. Now, if we could just get Hollywood to give it a look as well…

CLICK HERE to purchase the book
CLICK HERE to visit the official website of author Stephen M. Irwin

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