Written by: Vitina Molgaard
Carolyn Haines’ The Darkling is a rich gothic piece assembled under the pseudonym, R.B. Chesterton. The tension in this novel is often nerve wracking, as we wander through the deep-south to a place called Colen, Alabama. It is a small community where the rich and famous came to play back in the 1940s, all freedoms and desires unquestioned. In this town, residents did absolutely as they pleased without concern or intervention from others.
Chesterton deposits the reader here in the summer of 1974, where most of the glitter and glory of the once beautiful homes have become little more than rot and ruin. This is where we become familiar with the story’s primary character, Mimi Bosarge, who tells readers – through an extensive narrative – about her life at Belle Fleur where she once resided as a live-in-tutor for The Henderson family. A job that brought her great pleasure until the family took in the mysterious teenage orphan, Annie (no, not that Orphan Annie).
Annie brings with her no memory, but she has plenty of secrets waiting to be excavated. Life in this home will never be the same for anyone, least of all Mimi, who realizes from the beginning that something very wrong and dark has come along with the young girl. It is not long before death and horror swoop through the ranks of the family.
The story is told as an extended recap from the past before coming full circle, reacquainting readers some 40 years later with Mimi, as she once more prepares to face an evil that tormented her decades ago. And to Chesterton’s much-deserved credit, there’s an excellent weaving of time, murder, mystery and outright horror.
The Darkling is creepy and it climbs right under your skin as the book proceeds to tease us with situations and unbelievable creatures. It is a ghost story of the truest nature, but there are enough spins on familiar terrors to keep us glued to the pages. For those who enjoy great gothic reads, The Darkling is well worth your time. If you’re unfamiliar with the work of R.B. Chesterton, or Carolyn Haines, this is a perfect introductory piece.