Colin Hinckley delivers an imaginative folk horror tale with “The Black Lord”, a novella that explores family secrets.
Hinckley introduces a family trying to cope with the abduction of their younger son, Danny, who mysteriously disappears from his crib.
The story begins from 9-year-old Eddie’s perspective, with the family’s trauma vividly illustrated through Eddie’s eyes.
His parents are on edge and have been constantly fighting since Danny’s disappearance. Todd has started drinking heavily and is described as resembling a “skull.” Laura moves about the house like a ghost. The place isn’t being taken care of. One Saturday morning, Eddie goes into the kitchen searching for cereal and finds that the cupboards are almost bare and dirty dishes from the night before left in the sink.
After falling asleep one night, Eddie sees a monster at his window. The creature tells Eddie that he’s taken Danny and wants Eddie to come with him. After seeing the creature, Eddie refuses to leave his bed.
His mother calls the doctor, who agrees to make a house call. Eddie overhears the doctor telling his mother that his problems are psychological, caused by his brother Danny’s disappearance. At the same time, just before Eddie sees the monster, he’s reading a copy of The Divine Comedy with some graphic illustrations.
The Black Lord unravels in layers as we get the story from each family member’s point of view.
The different perspectives fill in holes, complementing each other like puzzle pieces, filling in the gaps left by the others.
With Laura, Hinckley paints a portrait of a woman dealing with a life unraveling. She faces the trauma of a missing son, a husband who refuses to work and drinks heavily, and a sick son who she suspects is experiencing something horrible he refuses to talk about.
Todd suffers under the stress and strain of a dark family secret.
We also get Todd’s mother, Sandy’s perspective, which adds another layer and dimension.
Besides masterful story construction, Hinckley uses prose engagingly, effectively communicating tone and setting. He can make a reader’s skin crawl at the appropriate points.
At the same time, he employs enchanting prose to paint a portrait of a peaceful landscape.
Scary and emotional, The Black Lord is an engaging novella that will keep you on the edge of your seat and haunt you long after you finish it.