When opting to review Brian Pinkerton's newest, Anatomy of Evil, I knew that it was going to be a very hit or miss read for me. Not because I had read Pinkerton before, or because I had observed middling reviews of his work. Rather, it was due to the subject matter. You see, of all the sub-genres within horror, I struggle to appreciate demonic possession tales the most. I'm not sure what or why it is, but most stories revolving around a possession tend to fall flat for me (Jonathan Janz's Exorcist Road being a recent exception).
Yet I dared to believe Pinkerton had put together a short novel that would redress this balance, since in this tale, there is not one possession, but four. Simultaneously. The plot deals with a group of friends who head away on a secluded fishing trip, are exposed to a hole to what may be hell, and are effectively possessed by the evil that resides there. They completely change in personality, engage in behaviours that are the antithesis of what they would previously have done, and set off on a plot to unleash more such evil on the world. Standing in their way are their loved ones who were not exposed to the same dimensional hole when they remained behind on the day of the fateful fishing trip.
For this reader, the execution never quite lived up to the premise. Nothing was terribly bad; it just never felt engaging or authentic enough. For one, the characters are too simplistically good before they are exposed to the hell hole, so that when they "go bad" my reaction was more one of amusement than horror. I couldn't help but wonder how much more compelling it might have been had the afflicted characters been more realistically complicated, as humans generally are. Then there are the loved ones, who are all ridiculously slow to start questioning their partners and friends, so that most of the book is over before they come into conflict with one another. There are also a couple of major plot contrivances which bothered me, but they involve spoilers so I won't go into them here.
On the technical side of things, Pinkerton's writing style is solid without being flashy. His dialogue, however, sometimes came across as stilted and being not quite real - as if they were characters on a page talking, rather than real-life people.
All that said, there is most definitely an audience for this tale of demonic possession, and I have no doubt many will enjoy it as an easily consumed slice of straight-forward horror.
2 Unheeded Local Warnings for Anatomy of Evil.
The preceding honest review was based on an eARC obtained through Netgalley as provided by Samhain Publishing.