Joseph Dâ€™Lacey is part of a new generation of emerging UK horror writers and a name to look out for in the future. Dâ€™Lacey is winner of the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer and has received plaudits from the likes of Stephen King and Adam Nevill. Therefore, it was with great anticipation that I picked up Blood Fugue but did it pack the desired punch?
Blood Fugue tells the tale of monsters hidden in the isolated mountain community of Hobsonâ€™s Valley, home to reclusive outdoorsman Jimmy Kerrigan. However, itâ€™s more than just monsters, Blood Fugue reveals an ancient plague contained within the woods, turning family, friends and neighbours into vampiric beings. Caught up in the middle of it, with a hidden past of his own, Jimmy Kerrigan is the one person who holds the key to saving Hobsonâ€™s Valley and those he holds dear.
Blood Fugue doesnâ€™t pull many punches and is not for those uneasy with near to the knuckle content. It is bloody, visceral horror mixed with graphically described sexual encounters which still manages to weave a well crafted story throughout; it is not gore for goreâ€™s sake. The characters are well realised and the writing style really draws the reader in, think early Stephen King for tone with the rawness of sex to be expected from the likes of Clive Barker. We have the uneasy hero, redneck locals with the usual mix of idiosyncrasies and some tourists thrown in for good measure but each one of them has a solid back story, coming alive on the page, written with a consummate ease that avoids clichÃ©. Dâ€™Lacey introduces us to the world of backwoods America mixed with the demonic in a manner that makes everything feel familiar and fantastical all at once.
The monsters, the Fugue, a twisted version of what many might call vampires, are excellently portrayed and hidden in plain, sight meaning no-one can be trusted, and the way they suck blood is truly unique. Jimmy, caught up in his own neuroses, reluctantly adopts the mantle of Fugue Hunter, evolving to acceptance of his fate, becoming a one man army against the hoards before him. Naturally thereâ€™s a main â€˜big evilâ€™ but I wonâ€™t say much here to avoid ruining the reveals.
Any niggles with the story? Well a couple here and there; I didnâ€™t really accept the â€˜bindersâ€™, weapons crafted by Jimmy against the Fugue, as the totems they were presented as, almost an eco-variation of the sign of the cross to more traditional vampires used as projectiles. Additionally, there are instances of sexual encounter involving a couple of the older teenage characters which I felt slightly uncomfortable with and I think it fair to forewarn the casual reader in advance. Minor niggles though as I still found myself eager to devour each page.
Highlights? Lots actually, the whole book is very, very good and I could list several, but the stand out one for me involves an abandoned shack, a bath tub and some full on Fugue snacking leaving a Damien Hirst-esque scene for others to find. Youâ€™ll know it when you get there!
Overall, I really enjoyed Blood Fugue and would recommend you go out and buy it, this has to be a must read for anyone with a love of the horror genre. Is it Dâ€™Lacey at his best? Not having read his other works it is hard to tell but I suspect there is another gear or two he could shift up to (and heâ€™s not idling by any means at the moment). If that is the case, then he could start to be looked upon as one of the horror greats of the future.