BLACK OAK #2: THE HUSH OF DARK WINGS
Roc / 236 pages / 1st edition (January 1, 1999)
Grant started the Black Oak series off with a genuine scare in Genesis, introducing memorable characters and an intriguing set-up. The Hush of Dark Wings serves as more of an interlude than the next spectacular installment in the adventures of the private investigation firm with a soft spot for strange cases. Interesting as it is, this second volume is a respite to allow most of the Black Oak group to rest up and prepare for the next emergency.
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Ethan Proctor, owner of the agency, decides to take on this latest mystery alone. Or, he would go it alone if he were not saddled with Vivian, the personal assistant of Black Oak’s biggest client, Taylor Blaine. Like it or not (and, of course, the answer is not), Proctor is stuck with Vivian until Blaine accepts the fact that his daughter is gone. Yes, there’s always a chance that Black Oak might find the missing woman, but such a slim chance after fourteen years. Vivian looks to be around for the duration.
Certainly, it is an uneasy alliance that sets out to uncover the truth in Hart Junction, Kansas, where a fresh-faced cult appears to have settled in just at the time the townsfolk are starting to disappear. Hart Junction is an Old West ghost town that is rapidly running out of warm bodies to fill the saloon. And that is during the day; the night is when things really get dead.
Unfortunately, no one in town is eager to open up to the investigators. If there’s something amiss, they haven’t noticed it. Nothing wrong with those helpful young women in the religious order. So what if the population is decreasing almost daily?
Is there anyone willing to admit there is a problem?
And, what is that annoying rustle of wings every night?
The Hush of Dark Wings is another welcome dose of Grant’s flowing, creepy style. The feeling is simply that it is all over too quickly; this could easily be half of a dazzling novel, or a novelette tossed in to keep the story moving. As a separate entity, it is over before the reader can get the nails chewed off one hand.
Proctor and his group are an entertaining mix, especially with the ironclad Vivian tossed in to make relations even more edgy. Getting a firm grasp of the dynamics was impossible in the first installment. In this second, Proctor’s team puts in little more than a cameo as he heads off to fight the dark threat on his own. Nothing wrong with that, but the pleasure of watching the investigators act and interact again must wait for the next novel. Grant’s characters are individuals you want to know better. Now is not the time, unfortunately.
The Hush of Dark Wings is good. How could it not be, coming from Charles Grant? This is a series that actually has you fretting about the appearance of the next installment. For my tastes, the next chunk could be thicker and meatier, if not make its own gravy.