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One Who Walks Alone

 

 

Canadian author M.J. Preston is rapidly becoming recognized as one the more impressive writers of horror fiction. His novels to date: ACADIA EVENT, FOUR, and The Highwayman Series. THE EQUINOX is actually Preston’s debut novel, the original manuscript was shelved for over twelve years. In addition to his novels, Preston has been a contributor to short story anthologies, collections that focus on dark themes.

The mood of THE EQUINOX is sets in a brief but atmospheric poem ‘In Spirit Wood’ – a manner of introducing the flavor of the story  that follows. A Prologue opens the door: ‘Spirit Woods, Chocktee Nation Village, 1995: One Day after Spring Equinox – He was packing the small knapsack with provisions for the trip, yet he really had no idea what to take. At his side, his mother wept. Once so upright, so proud, now she was barely a skeletal shell of a woman she had once been. Cancer was consuming her, had turned her thin, gray. The death of her father, coupled with her son’s erratic behavior, drained her even further, and he was too entrenched in how own selfishness to appreciate the depth of her pain. The freshly bandaged cut on his cheek was swollen and had been stitched closed the night before…’ And so we meet Daniel Blackbird and his mother Janice Blackbird, two characters whose roles in this horror story are key.

Preston’s synopsis shares the plot without destroying the anxiety-riddled pace that makes this book so engrossing: ‘It has existed for centuries. A dark curse held captive by an ancient ritual, a creature of insatiable hunger possessing the ability to change shape at will. During the spring and fall equinox it would break through the walls, separating our worlds to feed. Now it walks among us, unrestrained, and very hungry. Daniel Blackbird has been chasing the murderous shapeshifter known as The Walker across North America for over a decade. From North of the 60th parallel to the city of Chicago and into the heartland of a small midwestern town in Manitoba. Blackbird follows unrelenting, obsessed with vengeance. In its wake, the Walker leaves a bloody trail of eviscerated victims. Along the path. Blackbird finds himself drawn to the Prairie town of Thomasville where a string of child murders is being investigated. There, the
chief of police, David Logan has uncovered a mass grave in the cornfield of a local farmer named Stephen Hopper. Hopper has confessed, even identified the graves, but claims that he is merely the caretaker of this macabre burial ground and that a creature who he thinks is the devil is responsible. As Chief Logan grapples with the unthinkable, Blackbird sets out for the prairie town which, as the Equinox approaches, is destined to become a killing ground where cultures and worlds will collide. Will he get there in time? And who will believe him?’

MJ Preston is that rara avis whose skill in creating terrifying horror stories that cover many social mores and preserve the magic and culture of indigenous peoples is unmatched today. Enter his world and be transformed by his craft. Highly recommended.


~Grady Harp