My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Highwayman, the latest DarkFuse release from Craig Saunders, is a cool bit of folklore horror that draws on plenty of English history and interconnects with some mythological touchstones present in a few of Saunders' other titles (although this, as well as Saunders' other works, is a stand-alone title and functions perfectly well independently).
Here, we're introduced to Karl and Bethany Goodman, who lost their daughter to a savage killer some years earlier. Their marriage is in the dumps, and Karl has taken a posting in Malaysia. After a plane accident, he finds his physical body comatose and near death, while his spirit wanders through Fog-World - where his daughter's killer lurks.
Saunders fills up his story with plenty of spiritual fantasy, providing a landscape for second chances and the possibility of justice. We also get a number of fascinating characters and dynamics. I really appreciated the relationship between the Goodman's and the way each recognizes how they have moved on, and struggle to reconnect, even if only briefly, in the wake of Karl's accident. The killer, the titular Highwayman, is not as present as I would have liked, coming in fairly late in the story, but when he does show up, it's some really potent stuff.
Saunders has a knack for putting a lot of detail and development into a pretty brief page count. Highwayman feels like a much larger book than it really is, and I mean this in the best possible way! It's nicely dense and there's plenty of meat on the plot's bones. He's also a heck of a writer, painting several vivid scenes that will stick with me for a while (I found the finale to the Goodman's story is especially touching, and the way the scene was crafted and framed in my mind's eye is a lovely bit of Gothic horror).
Note: As a member of the DarkFuse Readers Group, I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.
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