Family can be both heaven and hell, and nobody knows this better
than Douglas Clegg, author of THE HOUR BEFORE DARK, a dark,
psychologically astute novel that pushes beyond the horror genre
and into raw suspense.
In THE HOUR BEFORE DARK, the psychology of childhood runs smack dab
into the realities of adult life. When Nemo Raglan's father is
murdered, Nemo must return to that New England island where he grew
up, and from which he's spent most of his life running.
But what begins as a murder mystery quickly grows into a story of
the disturbing echoes of early family life upon the grown siblings
of the Raglan clan. Brooke Raglan may be headed for a breakdown ---
she discovered their father's body in the smokehouse and sat for
hours, staring at it, before contacting the police. She paces the
house at night, room to room, believing that someone may be hiding
there. Bruno Raglan, Nemo's little brother, had a turbulent
relationship with their father and has outbursts that are both
creative and destructive around his ambivalence toward the family.
Somewhere on Burnley Island, the killer may still be waiting in the
But it is Nemo who carries the heaviest burden as the grown
children begin, both literally and figuratively, to pick apart the
house in which they grew to adulthood. Nemo knows that there was a
week of amnesia when they were all children --- a week when their
mother stormed out of the house on her way to another country,
seemingly to get as far away from her family as possible.
At the root of all this is a childhood ritual, taught to them by
their father, to help them get through difficulties in life. It's a
game of escapism that, on the surface, resembles any other
childhood game of make believe. But Clegg makes it very clear: the
ritual, called The Dark Game, got out of hand during that
tempestuous week in their lives. Something happened during that
week, something has been blocked.
And somehow, it's related to the present day murder.
The Dark Game within the novel is one of the novel's most original
elements. Clegg examines and explores the roots of creativity in
children --- and how rituals can help them survive to adulthood,
and how, in adulthood, these rituals must be exorcised.
THE HOUR BEFORE DARK is a powerful and deeply engaging novel of
disturbance and redemption. Clegg has zeroed in on the positive and
negative effects of family, and has captured the isolation of
winter in New England as well as the inner life of adults as they
come to examine the often shadowy corridors of childhood
THE HOUR BEFORE DARK is highly recommended to any reader who enjoys
Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or Pat Conroy. Yes, Pat Conroy. This is
a literate, deeply felt novel of family and terror that is not to
Reviewed by Jackye Thorn on January 22, 2011