Having never read anything from B.E. Scully before, I had no idea what to expect. Truthfully, I didn’t anticipate being entertained as completely as I was. Devils in Dark Houses is a set of four equally powerful novellas set in the author’s home state of Oregon. The stories are all connected through a pair of homicide detectives assigned to the individual cases.
Before the tales, the author shares a pretty dark quote from Teddy Roosevelt:
There is not one among us in whom a devil does not dwell; at some time, on some point, that devil masters each of us…. It is not having been in the Dark House, but having left it, that counts.
“The Eye That Blinds”—Ross Devlin, Tyler Wickett, and Brooke Merrill call themselves the Three Musketeers. College friends, each with their own set of delusions. Ross believes he’s been selected for a new reality show called “The Eye,” Tyler is obsessed with monitoring and controlling Brooke’s life, and Brooke has self-diagnosed MS. Scully delivers a captivating read which will leave detectives Monte Martinez and Cassie Shirdon trying to figure out a brutal, twisted puzzle, the kind we see on TV which leaves us shaking our collective heads.
“Each Castle Has Its King”—A story that asks, “Can a house be evil?” Calvin Goodman and his wife, Rachel, and their dog, Jackson, move to the country.
…leaving Los Angeles for a “more peaceful, sane place.” Like Oregon. There was no question about the peaceful part. But Rachel wasn’t at all convinced about the “more sane” part of the bargain.
Their neighbor on the one side, Roy Crampton, was less than friendly. The Dell sisters, Mary and Mabel, lived on the other side of their property and were disturbing in their own way.
“Nostri”—This was my favorite of the four novellas is the collection. Disenfranchised teens and a story that asks some hard questions. Thought provoking and frightening. What starts with a fascination with the teachings of a Roman philosopher and taking a stand on some social issues, in an unusual way, takes a decidedly dark turn and ends in murder. Once again, Martinez and Shirdon are on the case. Without a doubt this was one of the most powerful narratives I’ve read this year. Chilling in its ramifications.
“Devils in Dark Houses”—Another story about ethics, addressing the issue in an entertaining, dark fiction sort of way. Good cops, not so good cops, DB Cooper, and an itinerant schizophrenic who refers to himself as the Hound. What’s not to love? Plus, the Hound knows something about the past in the very police department where Martinez and Shirdon still work homicide. Given what they have to work with, getting to the truth will be anything but easy.
B.E. Scully has a very comfortable writing style which made reading this quartet of novellas a joy, and I look forward to reading her work again, soon.