Nicholas Close has always had an uncanny intuition, but after the death of his wife he becomes haunted, literally, by ghosts doomed to repeat their final violent moments in a chilling and endless loop. Torn by guilt and fearing for his sanity, Nicholas returns to his childhood home seeking a fresh start. But he is soon entangled in a disturbing series of disappearances and murders. He finds himself a suspect, and as the evidence mounts against him and the ghost continue to haunt him, Nicholas will need to confront the woods that surround his hometownthe origin of his troubles and where a malignant evil may be lurking, waiting.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.84(d)|
About the Author
STEPHEN M. IRWIN lives in Brisbane, Australia, with his wife and son. The Dead Path is his first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1 ~ 2007
It drifted down slow as morning mist, settling white on brown, white on silver, white on white. It fell so thickly that Nicholas could see no more than a meter or so ahead. His hair, normally the color of dry grass, was white with it. His hands on his hips, flecked coral, blood red, and indigo, grew steadily paler as he stood in the steady downward wash of white. His eyes, the darkest part of him, were all that moved as he watched the figure above him. A ghost, swaying its arms to the milky sky, waving. Or a summoning angel. A spectral thing, unmindful of him.
He stared a long moment, then pulled off his earmuffs.
The snow was driven by the roar of an orbital sander. The machine's electric hornet buzz was so amplified by the soundbox of the ceiling that it seemed some lunatic was on the roof tumbling an endless stream of rocks down the tiles. A stepladder was perched half-in and half-out of the bath, and atop it Cate strained upward as she sanded around the vent in the bathroom ceiling. Plaster dust was everywhere, making the small room a blizzard world of indeterminable size.
She attacked the ceiling in broad strokes that belied her size, swooping mightily over the plaster filler like a baker spreading dough or a shipwright planing planks. He watched the way her arm muscles moved under their geisha patina, the way her calves stretched.
It was a gloomy Saturday afternoon. While Cate prepped the bathroom, Nicholas had been chiseling up tiles in the minuscule laundry. Because they worked in separate rooms, it was all the more enjoyable to come together, picking their ways through the battlefield of paint cans, balled drop sheets, takeaway curry containers holding limey water and soaking brushes, to find some clean little beachhead in the madness, wipe the dust off each other, kiss, and encourage themselves that the renovations would indeed end and this would soon-God, please, soon!-be the sexiest little flat in Ealing.
The dumb sky outside grumbled darkly, making the small bathroom in false winter seem even cheerier.
A tearing sound, and Cate switched off the sander.
"You effing . . . shit." Her lips pursed tight, as if fighting to dam a wild ocean of obscenities.
Nicholas tutted. "The language. It never fails to shock me."
She turned to him-an albino alien, goggled and masked.
"Funny boy. How long have you been skiving off there, pervert?"
Nicholas shrugged. "Why the foul mouth?"
Cate preferred not to swear, but that didn't mean she wouldn't. At a dinner party eighteen months ago, the host had asked Nicholas what date his and Cate's wedding anniversary fell on and he had momentarily drawn a blank. In the car on the way home, Cate had described the moment as "fucking humiliating." Delivered quietly in her round, wholesome vowels, the words cut with surprising efficacy. Less, for Cate, was more.
"A nailhead tore the sandpaper. Again. Last sheet."
She lowered her dust mask and lifted her goggles, revealing skin almost as pale as the plaster dust. She climbed down off the ladder, over the bath, to the floor. She was small. She spread her arms wide. Without thinking, he stepped into them-a beautiful trap. She slapped her arms around his waist-thup!-releasing a huge cloud of white dust.
"Sucka!" she cackled, and stepped back to survey her handiwork: a huge white patch on his front and a belt of white powder around his waist. She grinned.
Nicholas shook his head in mock disgust. "You lured me. You used your body as bait and lured me."
"Sucka!" she repeated, grinning more broadly. And opened her arms again.
This time she closed them around him slowly, and they talked through their kiss.
"How are you going?"
"Lazy slag." Cate slapped his bum. "Get back to it. I'll drive in and get some sandpaper."
"I'll go. You're dirty. A dirty, filthy girl."
He felt her lips smile under his.
"And now you're a dirty, filthy boy."
It was four years ago, in a flat like this on a rainy evening, that he'd met her. They'd talked for an hour, danced drunkenly and badly for ten minutes, and kissed-smiling and clicking teeth-until the hosts called them a cab and, with no small relief, sent them home together. Maybe that was why he so liked their little apartment: because it felt like Cate. New love, and lovely at it.
"Be careful, bear," she said. "It sounds like rain outside." She patted his backside again and clambered up the ladder.
She was right: rain fell, steady and chill.
Nicholas shoved his hands in his pockets and stumped toward the curb. Their flat might become the sexiest in Ealing, but it still didn't have off-street parking.
He stopped and swore under his breath.
Their '03 Peugeot was neatly trapped between a Yaris and the new neighbor's Land Rover. Again. He owns a truck capable of climbing Kilimanjaro, thought Nicholas, but still catches cabs to get to Paddington. But he was in a good mood and didn't want it ruined by having words. He'd take the motorbike.
A minute later, Nicholas pulled on his helmet, twisted the throttle, and his BMW let out a baritone rumble as it eased out from its stable behind the dustbins onto the street. He'd be soaking wet before he got to the hardware, and thoroughly dissolved by the time he got home, but he couldn't be arsed going back inside to fetch his slick or facing Cate's insistence that the urban adventurer next door get a talking- to. The lumpy side panniers would keep the sandpaper dry.
The world was painted from a palette of grays. There was next to no traffic. The rain on his face stung lightly enough to be pleasant, and the bike rumbled contentedly. As he turned down past Walpole Park, Nicholas resolved to enjoy the icy wet. He would be cold and happy with it: a pasha on his mount, a cavalier on royal duty; a man with an excuse to become naked before his beautiful wife in a quarter of an hour. He smiled to himself and glanced at the green park flashing past.
The grove always drew his eye. It was tucked in the corner of the park, its old trees cloistered together, huddled close as weary soldiers under grim umbrellas. Neglected and conspiring. Secretive. Their trunks were dark as tar in the late light and the gray rain, and their tops were huge inverted bowls of sea black-thick green and rambling and restless.
Between the dark trunks was a face.
A man's face . . . yet not human. Larger. Older. In the instant before it retreated into the night-black shadows of the grove, Nicholas saw that from the corners of its mouth grew-
A sharp, sick symphony of collapsing metal and shattering plastic, then he was arcing through the air. For a long moment, his eyes were filled with cloud-bruised acres of sky and telephone lines and silence. Then a small cracking sound and his lungs filled with mercury. Pain as hard as ice jolted through him like electricity. He was still moving: not flying now, but sliding on his back along the wet bitumen, frozen in a breathless world of insane agony. Sliding. Slowing. Stopped.
Gray rain and dark leaves. Silence.
And pain so solid that he felt carved from it-lungs spasming, wanting to work but unable to, more winded than he'd ever been during high school rugby or behind-the-shed fisticuffs. He could do nothing but lie there and will his burning lungs to please, please, please inhale!
A face loomed over him. Brown teeth behind thin fish lips. Wide eyes, deep frowns. Two faces. Then, like a tide returning and bringing waves with it, the world's noise returned with his breath-with a rattle, he sucked in cold, wet, beautiful air.
". . . an ambulance!"
"Don't move him!"
He let out a whistling breath and tried to sit up, but the movement brought fresh icicles of pain.
"Oh, Terry, he's okay!"
Nicholas, wanting to contribute to the optimistic mood, tried to whisper, "I'm okay," but all that came out was a weak sigh.
A man and a woman stood above him, their details vague through tears of wretched pain.
Words spilled out of the woman like marbles from a split sack. "We just backed out and didn't look and we are so, so sorry-"
"Don't say you're sorry!" hiss-whispered her husband.
"I didn't say sorry."
"Phone?" wheezed Nicholas.
The couple clarified: a horse-faced pair in matching tweed, looking down at this wounded, talking marvel.
"Of course." The man handed over his mobile. Nicholas's thumb shook as he dialed. He loosened his helmet as the LCD screen blinked: Calling.
"My bike?" he whispered.
The man lifted his chin and peered between the top of his glasses and the brim of his tweed driver's cap.
"Pretty well buggered. You know you're bleeding?"
"Oh, God! He's bleeding?"
Nicholas held up a hand for silence. A click as the other end picked up.
Cate. Nicholas's heart slowed. Relief as warm as sunlight washed through him.
"Hello, bear. What's up?"
"Cate." He was so happy to hear her. Why? He'd only left her a moment ago . . .
"Nicky? Where are you? Are you on the road?" Concern in her voice now. "I heard the motorbike and-oh, God, have you had an accident?"
Her voice was growing fainter.
"I'm fine, nothing. A little bingle. You, though. Are you all right?"
He was so happy. Happy and amazed. She was fine. Why had he worried so?
Evening seemed to be falling fast. The equestrian couple was darkening in shadow, their faces growing as lean and hidden as the evening trees themselves. The rain was a steady hiss.
"I'm worried about you! Where are you? Nicky? Nicholas?" Her voice was thin and distant, words from the bottom of a well.
"I'm here . . . but you're all right?"
A gray pall fell over the world, rapidly making everything dimmer and darker. Gray became black. Evening became night.
"You're all right . . ." he whispered.
Just a little nudge, stirring a tinkle of ice. Bump. A flick of paper somewhere.
Nicholas opened one eye a fraction. It was night. Well, dark, certainly. And his face was cold and damp; chill hissed down on him. Was it still raining? His vision was swimmy.
He opened the other eye, and blinked.
The aircraft cabin was as dark as a cinema. Hard plastic window shades were pulled down. The cool air was loosely laced with body odor and cologne. Passengers lay motionless with blankets drawn to necks, mouths agape, sleeping. Most lights were out, but a few private oases of yellow or blue peppered the gloom, a woman reading here, a man wearing headphones watching a small screen there. Up the aisle, a flight attendant checked on her wards, walking between passengers as silently as a benevolent spirit.
Someone behind Nicholas was drinking: ice ticked on thin plastic. Across the aisle from him, a girl of six or seven sat awake, coloring a picture.
"Oh, God . . ."
Nicholas turned at the desperate whisper, before realizing it was his own. His nose was blocked. He touched his face. His cheeks were wet and cold under the air hissing from the vent above.
He'd been crying in his sleep.
If I shut my eyes now and go to sleep, he thought, I can go back. Back to the beautiful lie that Cate had answered the phone, worried, but alive.
But the truth of things rushed through floodgates, dousing him wide awake. He was alive and leaving Britain. Cate was dead: three utterly dreadful months in the ground. She'd fallen getting down the ladder to answer his telephone call after the motorbike crash, splintering her neck on the bath edge.
The cold weight of the realization sank Nicholas deeper into his seat. He swallowed back bile and wiped his nose. The little girl across the aisle glanced at him disapprovingly. The flight was an eternity. He angled his watch to catch what little light there was.
"Are you all right, sir?"
A flight attendant looked down at him, brows drawn in tight concern. Her face was pale but her cheeks were pink and her nose freckled. Young.
The flight attendant leaned closer, whispered again, "Are you all right, sir? You . . . made some noise in your sleep." She held a tissue toward him.
"Oh." Not knowing what else to do, he took the tissue. "I'm fine." A lie to send her on her way.
"Yes." Another lie. So, now she could go.
But she lingered. The little girl across the aisle had stopped coloring and was sitting upright.
"That's no good. We like our passengers to sleep well." The flight attendant's white smile was disconcertingly bright in the darkness.
"You really don't have to charm me. I'm already on the plane."
The woman's smile faltered. "But we'd like you to come back. Another blanket?"
Movement across the aisle caught Nicholas's eye. The little girl was shaking.
"Hey, you okay?" He pushed himself out of his seat, but was held back by the buckled belt. "Jesus, look."
The little girl was convulsing now, her legs jack-hammering and her hands clawing at her tiny neck. Her face was sharp red and her mouth was opening and closing like a hooked fish's.
The flight attendant followed Nicholas's glance, then looked back at him, concerned. "Or a pillow?" she asked quietly.
"Help her!" said Nicholas loudly, finally unclasping the strap. "She's . . ."
The little girl was turning blue, her eyes so wide they showed a finger's width of reddening white around the irises.
Nicholas stood too quickly, smacking his head on the luggage compartment. Other passengers began to stir at the noise.
"Help who?" The young woman's voice was sharp. "Sir?"
The silently gasping girl fell to the floor right at the attendant's comfortable flats. The child's pink and yellow top tore open, wrenched by invisible fingers, exposing a pale fluttering little chest and ribs. Nicholas stared in horror as the attendant took an awkward half- step back . . . and her foot passed through the girl to rest solidly on the carpeted floor.
Nicholas trembled. His heart smashed in his chest, vibrating his body.
The little girl's back arched, and her head wrenched back at a hideous angle. She jerked mightily, a landed trout flopping with horrible, drowning violence. Then, like a sandcastle undermined by a wave, she collapsed on herself and grew still.
"Sir?" whispered the attendant sharply. "Could you sit down please, sir?"
Nicholas felt the pressure of the young woman's grip on his wrist, and looked into her face. A tough, forced smile was on her face, her cheeks red. Nicholas saw other passengers turning to look at him, murmuring, whispering to one another.
He glanced down at the aircraft floor.
The little girl's dead eyes stared at the cabin ceiling for a long moment . . . then rolled to fix on Nicholas's.
"Sure." His voice was a sandy whisper. Shaking, he sat back into his seat. "Sorry."
The attendant shook her head, as if his behavior was perfectly normal, and sent a quick, calming smile around to the other passengers. Nicholas forced himself to focus on rebuckling his belt, on not looking at the dead girl the attendant was standing upon.
"Can I get you something?" the young woman asked. "Water? Tea?"
"What did the little girl die of?" he whispered.
The attendant blinked. "I beg your pardon?"
Nicholas looked across the aisle. The little girl was suddenly in her seat again. Her blouse was whole. She watched Nicholas, eyes unreadable. Her hands, as if with minds of their own, picked up the coloring book and crayon and recommenced their childish business.
Nicholas knew he should just shut up. But the words came of their own accord.
"A little girl just died here, didn't she?"
The woman stared at Nicholas, her mouth working as she made some decisions. He knew the look: the how-did-he-know-that, is-he-a- reporter, is-he-mental, is-he-dangerous look.
"How do you -" Her words were clipped. No politeness now.
The little girl was coloring her book with tedious slowness. Her face was in shadow. The passenger beside her rolled in his sleep and put his arm right through her head.
The flight attendant straightened her skirt. "I have no idea, sir. Information like that is kept by the airline. I must ask you not to talk about . . . such things on the flight, sir."
She glanced once at the empty seat opposite Nicholas, then moved away, a little too fast, up the dark aisle.
Nicholas looked over. The girl's hands stopped coloring. Her gaze was on his as she started shaking and turning blue again.
He rolled away from her and closed his eyes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This has supernatural, horror, mystery, and crime all in one in a fast paced story that will make you want to finish it in one go. The characters are so well made, and the story flows together brillantly! I was really suprised to find out Irwin is a first time writer!! (I will be looking out for his name now because this is one of the best books I have read in a while!) This book is fantastic!! If you really love the supernatural and fast paced, suspenseful, thrilling books, this is a definite MUST!!!
A 25-Year Single Malt of Spooky Stephen M. Irwin's supernatural thriller debut, THE DEAD PATH, is without a doubt one of the finest things to come out of Australia in the last twenty years. With a slow, considered burn of a beginning, the story twists a few times before it really gets rolling, and you think you are in for a predictable The Sixth Sense kind of "I See Ghosts" tale. But Irwin has loftier things in store for you. The story moves effortlessly into different territories than where you thought you were heading, and it sucks you in so deeply, that when it returns to issues brought up in the early part of the tale, you had completely forgotten about them, and the resulting impact is just what a terrific spookathon requires. The tale twists and turns, moving in directions you don't see coming until they are upon you. And by that point, the new direction is so wonderfully obvious, you question why you didn't see it coming in the first place. Because you are in the hands of a master, that's why. This novel was also a surprise for me in another way, unrelated to the excellent tapestry of woven plot. The prose is lush, exotic, and so concise, that Irwin can evoke the heebie jeebies as easily as he evokes your misspent childhood with a simple sentence about the weather. I found, for the first time in 15 years, I was savoring the prose of a novel, dipping into it like a fine single malt whisky, letting each sentence roll over my tongue, and feeling the delicious burn of each chapter. I found myself going back and re-reading a sentence to marvel at its construction--at how perfect it was, and yet how simple. Like any master of a craft, Irwin makes it look easy. I made the first third of the book last weeks, because I refused to barrel through it at the pace the plot demanded. I wanted it to last. I hadn't done that with a book since I read John Banville's lavish espionage drama, THE UNTOUCHABLE, over a decade ago. There's a reason why, like Banville, Irwin is an award-winning author. He's just that good. After my fine sips began to come one after the next, with a delicious warm intensity, I started gulping, until I finished the book in a staggering bender of intoxicated reading. We are living through a new renaissance of supernatural horror thriller fiction at the moment. Stephen M. Irwin is joining the ranks of the other new maestros: Joe Hill, Michael Koryta, and Justin Cronin. As the illustrious Stephen King spends more time tinkering with his magnum opus and knocking baseball novellas out of the park, these four authors are forging ahead with the genre, taking us places we've never been, but where we have been yearning to go. Any one of these authors could carry the legacy of Stephen King, with the fine chilling tales to which we have become accustomed. With Irwin's addition to the new spookmaster's club, readers of the genre are in fine hands.
This book will appeal to readers of supernatural thrillers, horror and crime. I picked the book up yesterday and finished it in one day! I have since searched for other titles by this author - finding out that Stephen M Irwin is a first-time Australian author. The author's website promises that a second book is on its way - and I will be first in line to pick it up. Great for book club discussion groups as there are certainly some interesting themes to pick up on. This book may might even make 'non-horror' readers change their mind about the genre! Looking for an exciting new author to become a favourite - then give The Dead Path a go, you won't be disappointed.
I would love to give credit to whomever recommended this book to me but I honestly can't remember who it was. I hate when that happens - feel free to remind me because I am grateful you did. The book started off a bit slow to me - it seemed as if it took quite a while for Nicholas to get to his hometown and the woods where it all begins and ends. A recent widower, Nicholas is both depressed and disinterested in life until the first child goes missing in the same way his best friend had decades before. As Nicholas tries to unravel the mysteries around the woods, he finds himself drawn into a sinister web as old as time itself. Irwin pulls you in so subtly that it isn't almost to the 50th page you realize you can't put the book down without knowing what happens next. Black magic, voodoo, witchery...Nicholas encounters it all. The use of spiders in the story gave me the willies. I am rather phobic about spiders so this story will, no doubt, be incorporated in bad dreams over the next few days. Irwin's writing style has the scenes jumping off the pages. Both disturbing and sinister, the book will keep you squirming in your seat - you might even gag a time or two before the end. I found myself swishing at invisible spiders crawling up my leg more than once - such vile little creatures. I've read in other reviews that this is Aussie Stephen Irwin's debut novel and that it was in the running for the best horror book of the year. I'd like to know what book won for it is hard to imagine a spooky story more worthy. My only disappointment in the book was the ending - it did not go the way I had thought it would yet the ending did make a certain amount of sense. I'm not one who has to have happy endings and I'm not saying this wasn't one - but it wasn't the one I expected. Usually I can guess a book's ending pretty accurately but this one had a little twist I didn't see coming. If you love spooky stories - ones where you swear you can feel spiders crawling down your spine - this is the book for you. I give the book an A!
The prose was excellent - he absolutely has a way with words, crafting lush environments. But he was a little heavy-handed on the plant references - he is either a part-time botanist or had just taken a class on plants, because he name-checked over 20 different types; I had to go to the dictionary on many of them. It took a little while to get going, but once it did it was worth it - up until the ending, which felt a little forced. All in all a very solid effort for a first time out. I wouldn't put him on par with Stephen King yet, but he's got a bright future.
I enjoyed this book. Great, talented writer. Will keep my eyes open for more from this author in the future.
Mr lrwin please write more books, I'm out.
This was a surprisingly great book. Ive never read anything by this author, but winning the Bram Stoker award swayed me to buy it. The story is original, the characters well fleshed out, and the ending is great! Its so hard to get endings right. Nicholas is a recent widower who blames hisself for his wifes death. A slip and fall brings on his ability to see ghosts. Moving back to his mother, and with help from his sister, he faces the ghosts of his past, his young friend Tristan, brutally murdered in the local woods, and ghosts of the present, the recently murdered children in the same woods. This story is filled with magic, witches, ghosts, and supernatural twists! I could hardly put it down. A riveting and truely scary book.
Ever since his wife died, Nicholas Close sees ghosts. He sees them everywhere, on airplanes and railroad tracks and city streets, playing out an endless loop of their often gory deaths. He leaves England for his mother's house in Australia, but there's no relief--and worse, it brings back memories of his best friend, murdered in the woods when they were just children. These woods are not lovely, but they are dark and deep, haunted by memories and something far more sinister. Something has been taking children from Tallong for more than a hundred years, and Nicholas might be the only one who can stop it.Overall, the book was extremely good--Nicholas and Suzette are good characters and believable adult siblings, bickering but still watching out for each other as everything they know falls apart around them. I am tempted to write a cranky feminist critique and use the word "agency" a lot--there's a scene towards the end where it looks like the ladies are going to start kicking some major evil butt...and then nothing happens, unfortunately.And horror? Yeah, we've got plenty of that. The plot features past and present (fictional) child murders, which is hard to write in a way that is creepy but not exploitative, but Irwin walks the line well. And pages 133 to 136 were hands down the scariest I've ever read, and I'm a Stephen King fan. Without spoilers, let me just say: Arachnophobes beware. Read The Dead Path, but read it in a well-lighted room with locked doors, drawn curtains, and a big can of bug spray within reach.
Every year around this time, with the leaves turning and pumpkins making their way into stores, I find myself craving ghost stories. Stories that make you want to sleep with the lights on and double check the locks on the doors and windows when the slightest sound is heard. Irwin deftly accomplishes both in his debut novel.Nicholas Close is living his dream life in London. He has a beautiful wife, they¿re renovating their new home together, and he has a job he enjoys. When a sudden and tragic accident takes his wife¿s life, he can¿t get past the devastation, the collapse of their dreams, and the downward spiral of his life. One other problem he¿s having that he would do anything to escape --- he¿s seeing ghosts. Not just simple hauntings, like socks going missing and found in odd places, but what he¿s seeing are the last violent moments of people¿s lives over and over like a movie he can¿t shut off. Everywhere he goes they appear making him wonder if he¿s losing his mind.Nicholas makes the decision to move back to his native Australia with the hope of starting fresh. His hometown doesn¿t have much to offer but it was home many years ago and what he¿s looking for is a clean slate which his small town can provide. His mother, never a very affectionate person, welcomes him home rather half-heartedly, but he¿s fine with the reception not expecting much more than the cup of tea she offers. His sister, a mother and successful business woman, decides to visit him as well and Nicholas finds in her a kindred spirit of sorts. She understands about the ghosts, and reveals a small secret --- their long dead father believed in witchcraft and she herself is a follower.When a child disappears into the woods that have long haunted Nicholas, he starts to see and hear things that he knows can¿t be possible. He starts to research the woods and finds a long dead woman still alive and possibly the reason for the strange occurrences, disappearances, and murders around town.There¿s that old saying that writers should write what they know. Well, I sincerely hope Stephen Irwin is not writing what he knows because his life would be terrifying if that were the case. This book starts out with death and racks up the numbers quickly. At first, I wasn¿t sure if I would be able to finish this book but then something happened, and without taking away any of the adrenalin-rush, Irwin brings on the creepy mystery and changes the story from one about child murders to a depraved witch on a hunt for blood. He doesn¿t drop the intensity level one bit and you race through the pages wondering what¿s going to happen next.It¿s dark, disturbing, and in places disgusting, but does what it¿s supposed to do --- it scares you. It makes you want to turn on every light in your house and banish house plants for fear they could be communing with a witch in the woods to conspire your ending. What I liked about the evil in this book was that it was subtle in appearance and you have to wait for Nicholas to figure things out, which in some places was a little frustrating but all part of the story. By the end of the book, you stop feeling sorry for Nicholas and want to yell at him to fight.While I found parts of the book slightly unpalatable, child murders are never an easy subject even when it is clearly fiction, the book delivered on the terror factor. If you¿re looking for a book for Halloween, this might be the one to try. It will certainly leave you with the need for extra lighting and a creepy feeling about dark woods.
Stephen Irwin¿s debut novel is a satisfying blend of suspense with a good dose of the supernatural and a dash of horror. It was the right mix to keep me up turning pages way past my bedtime (and to give me some pretty spooky dreams!)At the start of the novel Nicholas Close is happily married, until a glimpse of an eerie face through trees leads him to crash his motorcycle and, in an odd series of coincidences, leads to the death of his wife. Not long after, Nicholas begins to see ghosts¿and he doesn¿t just see them, he watches them die. Over, and over. Grief-stricken and fairly sure he¿s losing his mind, Nicholas leaves London and returns to his childhood home to try to start over.From here, Nicholas becomes entangled in a dangerous web as a crime occurs similar to one that¿s haunted him since his childhood. As Nicholas becomes involved in the creepy events that seem to be triggered by his return home, he is drawn into a mystery with horrific, supernatural undertones. The pacing of the novel is nice, with enough action to keep the suspense going but not so much as to be overkill. Kind of like a good appetizer, it whetted your appetite for the story and kept you coming back for more. The quality of writing was stand-out to me, especially for a debut author. It was original and fresh, and more than once I found myself re-reading sentences because I was so impressed with the beauty of the wording.The characters were nicely developed and easy to care for. My only complaint was that at times there seemed to be a few too many easy coincidences that made the story somewhat difficult to believe in places. Otherwise, however, this was a very impressive debut that kept me hanging on every word, and I look forward to reading more by this author.
2. [The Dead Path] by Stephen M IrwinHorror. There is plenty of that in this story. Nicholas has always been just a little bit different. Even his mother thinks so. That is why she is not quite eager to see him after the sudden and unfortunate accident that took the life of his young wife. And began the visionsof death that were suddenly an unavoidable part of Nicholas life. Now, since losing Cate,Nicholas can see those who have died sudden deaths. He has seen Cate's as well. He is terrified andundone. But Cate's death is just the beginning. Once back in his childhood home, a young boy gone missing brings back memories of a friend. Another young boy gone missing years before. Trying to run from the visions and the memories only make it worse. He sees more death, more terror, more horror. And then something clicks. Old photographs, old memories and then the question, is there a connection ? Don't read this one when you are home alone in the dark.
Nicholas Close is still recovering from the unexpected death of his beloved wife. Since her passing he¿s had the gift of seeing the undead, reinacting the last moments of their tragic deaths. Seeking comfort, he heads to his childhood home of Tallong, Australia. Instead of seeking comfort he¿s forced to witness the death of his childhood friend over and over again. A death that should have been his own. He also sees spirits of several other children around the same age. Looking back through the town¿s history Nicholas notices a pattern of deaths of children. Slowly he begins to realize there was a reason he didn¿t die as he should have, all those decades ago. He was meant to serve a purpose; a horrid & dark path was made for him.I was astounded to discover that The Dead Path is the debut novel of Australian author, Stephen M. Irwin. Irwin displays immense talent for a ¿rookie¿; the story he wove was intricately detailed and chilled me to the bone. His writing is reminicent of that of Stephen King & Peter Straub, quite descriptive & full of intensity. At the onset, Irwin makes it seem as though this book is simply about a case of child murders but in reality that is just the tip of the iceberg.The Dead Path is not a book for the faint of heart. Parts are quite dark, disturbing & graphic, but these traits really make this book what it is: an astoundingly chilling piece of horror fiction. Fans of King & Straub would definitely enjoy it. I look forward to reading more from this author!
I¿d like to suggest that Stephen M. Irwin¿s The Dead Path be categorized as an eco-friendly or "green" horror novel, but to say more than that would give too much away. It centers on Nicholas Close, a successful thirty-something antiques dealer, who leaves London to return to his native Australia after a freak accident (for which he blames himself) kills his wife. After her death, (and much like the boy in The Sixth Sense) Nicholas sees dead people - ghosts on the very spot where they died, re-enacting their deaths on a sickeningly endless loop. But his attempt to escape this non-stop horror show fails miserably - naturally, or we wouldn't have a story. Once home, an eerie forest just a stone¿s throw from his childhood home brings back disturbing memories and an unseen force lurking within starts anew to wreak havoc on his life and the lives of those around him.With the exception of some Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allen Poe that I was assigned in grade school, this is my first foray into legitimate horror fiction, so I don¿t have much to compare it to. I can say that Irwin has created some terrific characters here, particularly Nicholas¿s Wiccan sister Suzette and Hannah Gerlic a feisty tween, plus he¿s able to evoke a downright creepy atmosphere at times. But I was expecting to be truly disturbed or, at the very least, haunted, and I can¿t say he succeeded in that. Although there are some nailbiting moments, the book is never able to sustain the deeply chilling tone it seems to be reaching for. Ultimately, the impression I came away with was of a supernatural suspense novel, rather than an all out horror story.Oh, and you'll have to suspend your disbelief more than just a bit as the mystery starts to unravel. I think if the sort of things described in this novel went on in a small suburban community with such clockwork regularity (over a period of many, many years), someone would've noticed long before Nick Close moved back to town. But unanswered questions and gaping plotholes are customary pitfalls of paranormal literature, I suppose.But nonetheless, this is still a fast, entertaining read. The characters are well-rendered; a cut above those found in most genre fiction. The prose is subtly artful, but not so obvious as to distract from the story and the requisite twist ending really did throw me for a loop.
Much of the publicity for The Dead Path makes much comparison to Stephen King, and those comparisons are overstated, which is a pity, because they don't give this novel a chance to stand out as a creation in its own light.The novel centers on recently-widowed Nicholas Close, who, after a fall, has begun to see ghosts: specifically, he sees people's final moments played out again and again in an ongoing "video loop" of their final moments. They are everywhere, and they are inescapable. Unable to bear it, he packs up and leaves London and returns to his native Australia to his childhood home, to stay with his mother. He is joined in short order by his visiting sister, a hard-nosed financial planner who also turns out to dabble in the occult. We find out that, as a boy, Stephen's best friend was murdered under mysterious circumstances, and, as the novel goes on, we find out that these mysterious circumstances are part of a pattern that has been playing out over the history of this area, and that this history is somehow connected to the nearby woods.What Irwin does well: He creates the woods as an incredibly alive, vital force. As a setting, they are positively, absolutely teeming with life force, creeping off the page. Vivid descriptions of every kind of greenery imaginable fill the narrative; it's an absolute explosion. But Irwin casts a darkness over all this life that creates a positively creepy atmosphere that's a perfect setting for the occult goings-on described in the novel.What else Irwin does well: When we get into the historical backstory of the paranormal happenings, it's a real treat, a real mystery. Unfortunately, this begins a little late in the novel; it's a little slow getting started. But when it does happen, you're instantly captivated by Stephen's research into the past and what happened there. The mystery sucks you in, and you want to know more, more, more. Irwin dabbles out details tantalizingly, never showing his full hand, and this part of the novel is definitely the strongest and most page-turning. The additional characters-- like the Reverend Arand-- who get involved during this section are a real bonus, too. We become invested in them as part of uncovering this mystery and invested in them as characters themselves. Irwin weaves mystery and the paranormal beautifully and to great effect.Without giving anything away, another plus is the deliciously creepy ending.As stated before, the novel is a bit slow to get started off, and it does bog down in some spots. And there are a few places where you do say to yourself, "well, yes, I saw that coming." But this is a debut novel, so I think we can expect polishing of Irwin's style in books to come, and I look forward to them.
Good horror novels must be devilishly hard to write well. There has to be a proper balance between gore and straightforward exposition; between the supernatural and the real; between those who look askance at magic until it is too late, and those who embrace magic regardless of their previous disbelief. Stephen M. Irwin gets the balance just right in his debut novel, The Dead Path.Nicholas Close becomes enmeshed in the plans of a very, very old witch very early in his life. She has her eye on him because he has a ¿gift¿ ¿ one not realized until his beloved wife dies, but one he cannot escape thereafter. Nicholas can see ghosts. More precisely, he sees the ghosts of people who died violent deaths at precisely the moment of their deaths. And he sees these scenes replayed over and over and over. It¿s a wonder he¿s not completely insane. Certainly he¿s at the end of his rope when he returns to his hometown of Tallong, Australia, soon after he has buried his wife in London.His return seems to stir something up in the town, though, and odd things start happening very fast. A boy disappears in a crime almost identical to that committed against Nicholas¿s best friend when he was a child. A man commits suicide on Nicholas¿s front porch. And the woods that seemed so frightening when he was a child are even worse now. Now his ¿gift¿ enables him to see the ghosts of children hauled off into the woods by invisible hands, children whose bodies turned up with their throats slit.Little more can be said about this novel without giving away important plot points. You should have the opportunity to confront the thrills and chills of this book for yourself, and I do recommend that you give it a try. Irwin is a fine new addition to the horror genre, and I look forward to whatever he writes next.One cool point, something I¿ve never seen on a book before: when you put this book down at night and switch off the lamp, the jacket glows. Spooky!
A spine tingling book with a killer twist at the ending. The main character loses his wife in a tragic accident, then discovers he can see ghosts, who are compelled to replay their deaths in front of him over and over. returning to his native Australia,he discovers the creepy woods where his best friend was killed when they were both 10 are still there and as creepy as ever. when another child is abducted and murdered in the same way his friend was, he realizes that there is a malevolent force in the woods at work.
It took me awhile to get interested. Then it really begun to roll.