Unsettling, but brilliant second novel from award-winner

John Millen
John Millen |

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A Trick Of the Dark
By B.R. Collins
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 0 7475 9915 9

Atrick of the light is a moment when bright sunlight makes us think we see something that isn't actually there. A trick played by darkness is an altogether more sinister thing.

B.R. Collins' powerful debut,The Traitor Game, won the Branford Boase award for best youth fiction novel of 2009 in Britain. The award-winning book was not the sort of story onto which she could conveniently add a sequel but fans haven't had to wait long to see what Collins would do next.

Moving into completely new territory but showing the same no-holds-barred but sensitive storytelling skills, Collins' second novel A Trick Of The Dark is a multi-layered dark thriller for older teens. Readers will find themselves in totally new places in this uneasy and totally gripping story. Be prepared: A Trick Of The Dark is a disturbing, extraordinary trip into very shadowy territory. It is described on the cover as a 'supernatural thriller', but Collins' unsettling novel is much deeper than that easy label implies.

Teenager Zach's once-happy family is at crisis point; in fact, almost on the point of meltdown. His parents' marriage is breaking down. Zach himself has been thrown out of school for getting involved with drugs. His younger sister, Annis, is totally distraught by what is happening. She adores her brother and parents but finds herself stuck in the centre of a incomprehensible family breakdown.

The story takes a sudden turn when Zach's parents decide on a drastic move to save their family. They uproot from their British home and move to France in an attempt to get away from everything and start again. They move into a remote farmhouse, and Zach soon finds a derelict building to explore.

But one day, part of the house collapses, and Annis watches in horror as her beloved brother is crushed. She knows he must be dead - but suddenly Zach stands up and walks towards her.

Zach is undead. Some power in the ancient building has separated him from his soul and he has become horrifically inhuman. This is the beginning of a living nightmare for two once normal teenagers.

Collins narrowly succeeds in making her readers suspend their disbelief and accept what is going on in A Trick Of The Dark. With such an outlandish central concept, a lesser author would have produced a train-wreck, but Collins is a terrific writer who has come up with a confident, disturbing read.

Note: A Trick Of The Dark contains strong language.

John Millen can be contacted on [email protected]