by Barry Napier
published in 2014
How far down can one man fall? For Winn, it's pretty damn far. Alcoholism has ravaged his existence ever since his son died. He lost his job at the lumberyard, now making ends meet with what work he can find cutting wood, the house where he had started his family is gone and replaced by a rundown shack, and his wife while still living with him has been cheating on him fairly regularly. The three years have taken a toll, but not near as much as when a stranger calls one morning to say he's abducted his wife and demands Winn bring his dead boy, Kevin, to him.
That'd sober any man up, I reckon.
Barry's latest novella takes a more low-key tone, more subtle tone, than the previous works of his that I've read. The tension is immediate, no denying that, but it's not a mike-a-minute, cat-and-mouse chase here. Winn is as much trapped by his own demons as the one tormenting him and his wife, and the guilt coupled with the helplessness, as he realizes he is even more out of his depth than he first thought, does a big number on his head.
It starts off quite grounded, but as Winn strikes out to find his wife and the man who has her, things becomes more skewed for him. He doesn't trust others to help him, and he soon learns there might be good reason for that, along with the possibility that they couldn't really help him if he wanted them to.
Barry Napier has been steadily building upon his work, dipping into different genres, but it always seems to be that these darkly tinged tales of down-on-their-luck characters facing insurmountably and potentially supernatural threats are where his work really shines. It's bleak, but borderline great.