Book - The War in the Dark

Finding more in the shadows than just the spies, Steve Taylor-Bryant read The War in the Dark by Nick Setchfield thanks to Titan Books...

When I heard that SFX’s features editor Nick Setchfield releases his debut novel through Titan Books and I’ll be honest and say I was intrigued. You don’t get to be features editor of a renowned magazine without some intelligence and ability to not only write but to look beneath the surface of things and, just recently, some of the most enjoyable fiction stories I’ve read have come from the pen of journalists. Most intriguing though was the mix of genres that in my head I couldn’t see working. Cold War espionage and the occult? It can’t work can it? Well actually yes it can and work well it does.

Europe. 1963. And the true Cold War is fought on the borders of this world, at the edges of the light.

When the assassination of a traitor trading with the enemy goes terribly wrong, British Intelligence agent Christopher Winter must flee London. In a tense alliance with a lethal, mysterious woman named Karina Lazarov, he's caught in a quest for hidden knowledge from centuries before, an occult secret written in the language of fire. A secret that will give supremacy to the nation that possesses it.

Racing against the Russians, the chase takes them from the demon-haunted Hungarian border to treasure-laden tunnels beneath Berlin, from an impossible house in Vienna to a bomb-blasted ruin in Bavaria where something unholy waits, born of the power of white fire and black glass . . .

It's a world of treachery, blood and magic. A world at war in the dark.

It’s a wonderful thing, the tension you get in a very good spy novel. The world of secrets and secrecy presents both writer and reader with perfect opportunity to ramp up or drop off both the emotional aspects of a tale and the action. It’s the same with novels of the occult but I don’t remember a time where I have ever seen the two mixed and Setchfield has perfectly balanced not just the mixture of what is realistic and what isn’t, but also the levels of each aspect of the genres. They work hand in hand in an incredibly thrilling way, neither overpowering the other, each taking their turn to shine.

The characters created by Setchfield would work in either genre specifically but mix harmoniously within the narrative structure, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, each with an ability to hold the readers attention. The book has obvious James Bond influences sewn within it, Winter is the suave, yet flawed Daniel Craig incarnation of British Intelligence and the locations as Setchfield describes them throughout the book are as cinematic in the mind as the locations of any Bond film, with the crab like house on the outskirts of Vienna suitable for any Bond type villain you care to mention, as well as horrific enough to suit any film of the horror or occult. 

Setchfield has written a compelling and thrilling story that floats wonderfully in the imagination long after the book has finished, and the story is written in a way that lends itself cinematically with ease and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone somewhere is working on a screenplay as we speak. Titan Books don’t seem to make many mistakes with their choices in publishing, and in Nick Setchfield they have discovered a novelist that demands your time. This was a wonderful debut that hit every mark it needed to.

Follow Steve on Twitter @STBWrites

The War in the Dark is published on 17th July 2018

Image & synopsis - Titan Books

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