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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Review: Darlington Woods by Mike Dellosso

What a fun, compulsive read! I had a very difficult time putting this novel down—just ask my wife. As soon as I began this novel, I didn't want to stop. This is one creepy, addictive read that is a true page-turner. Unfortunately, I had to set it down due to my schedule, but I had the novel done in just a few days; then I needed a week or two to chew on it. I haven't read a novel that kept me so glued in quite a while, so this book ranks as one of the most riveting novels I've read this year. 

Mike Dellosso's writing and pacing just keep getting better and better with each offering, and this is his best yet. The short scenes and strong hooks kept me going because I wanted to find out whether Rob would find his son, Jimmy. Other questions needed answers too. What exactly happened to Rob's wife and his son? These details are unclear at the beginning—by design, I'm sure. Why does Rob disregard what the police said and still think Jimmy is alive? What is this other story about the boy? Is this supposed to be about Jimmy? Is this story supposed to be allegory or reality or a mix? Read carefully—or you might regret it later.

Darlington Woods is a fascinating, fast-paced, and short read you won't want to stop once you start. As far as genre, the novel crosses several: mystery, suspense, horror, even fantasy. Yes, there are some literal monsters in this story, so you may need to suspend disbelief and accept the fact that you are reading a story that crosses the line from reality into a creepy realm called "Darlington." As I read, the darklings reminded me of the Darkseekers who fear the dark in the movie I Am Legend. Other parts of the story are reminiscent of Jurassic Park, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker, though I must say that this is much better than anything current by Dekker as far as spiritual message. I was excited to see a clear message emerge instead of something barely even implied.

Mike Dellosso has fun with this one and likes to play with readers a little bit, so careful reading is essential. Otherwise important clues may be missed. Along the way, I confess, some aspects of the plot didn't make complete sense to me or raised questions that didn't seem to be fully answered. Perhaps it was just me, and a second reading might help. By the end of the story, of course, almost all questions are answered along with some clever new revelations that took me by surprise. The plot is mind-bending for sure with several twists and turns many readers won't see coming. I'm still wrestling through the full implications of the story's spiritual message; the author did a great job of tackling the issue of fear and saying loud and clear that Jesus is the answer. In the end, this is fiction, after all, and readers will need to decide for themselves.

All in all, this novel is a riveting example of what Christian fiction can do—balancing plot and truth—when handled by an author who knows how to use it. At the end, while trying to catch my breath, the powerful truth about light overcoming darkness came through loud and clear, and I kept thinking about it long after I turned the last page. Bravo, Mike, on another great novel! I'm looking forward to your next book.

Note: A special thank you to Strang Communications for providing my free review copy.

Visit the author's Web site.

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