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The Dead Path Hardcover – October 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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. Irwin writes in a lyrical style that expresses both the poignancy of Nicholas's distressing supernatural experiences and the mood of horror those experiences conjure.
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*Starred Review* Following a wicked accident and the tragic death of his wife, Nicholas Close has been cursed with the gift of second sight, condemned to watch the dying moments of ghosts over and over again. He flees London for the comforts of his childhood home in an Australian suburb but is surprised to see that the dense, dark woods down the street have still not been developed. That’s where his childhood best friend, Tristram, was murdered, and now another child from the neighborhood has gone missing. Nicholas is the only one who knows that she, too, has perished in the forest, for he is now being haunted by the vision of the moment she was taken, whisked into the woods by unknown forces. Compelled to find out what happened to both his childhood friend and the missing girl, he learns that there is an ancient spirit residing in the woods, one who seems especially interested in Nicholas and is poised for battle. Irwin employs many of the images familiar from dark fairy tales—skittering spiders, a haunted forest, an evil witch—and infuses them with fresh terror. One of the scariest novels of this or any other year, The Dead Path is sure to draw comparisons to the work of Stephen King. --Joanne Wilkinson
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It's about a witch who lives in a spooky woods that borders a suburban neighborhood. Kids go missing and end up found dead, and a human suspect always confesses. Only one man begins to suspect that there's something more going on: he's a tortured psychic who constantly sees repeating visions of murdered people. But nobody believes him. Who would?
The hero is sympathetic because the witch is so nasty and evil. This is not some peaceful, nature-loving Wiccan. She is a dark fairy tale come to life.
I highly recommend this book for all horror fans.
Just one word of warning: if you have arachnophobia, this book will freak you out. The award for scariest use of spiders in a horror novel: Stephen M. Irwin.
This is a mystery horror novel and a very good one in my own opinion.
In The Dead Path, Irwin takes the time to paint the landscape of his story well but it is the unexpected 'twists' that make this novel stand out as a a truly compelling read. There are too many twists to enumerate in one review but I'll give a short teaser. To start with the obvious, The Dead Path is set in an inner-city Australian suburb - not the normal stomping ground for a nail-biting horror. The central character of Nicholas Close sees ghosts - ho hum - but not in any way that you've read about before. There are two protagonists - a risky move at the best of times - but Irwin pushes it even further by introducing the second in the latter third of the book. It works. This new character is equally as compelling and succeeds in sucking you further into the storyline.
Irwin's writing is very descriptive and he possesses an extensive vocabulary - which he is not afraid to use. Metaphors abound and, in a note of caution, if this is not your thing, The Dead Path may not be the read for you. However, for those of you who like to fully savour the 'sights', 'sounds' and 'tastes' of a story, Irwin's writing is defintely a sensory feast.
The Dead Path is an interesting and compelling read which has appeal well beyond the horror genre. Readers of supernatural fiction, thrillers and crime who are looking for a change should also give The Dead Path a try. I promise that you will never look at little white dogs, drainage pipes or even a bathroom being painted in quite the same way again...