First published back in March of 2004, US horror author Edward Lee’s novel ‘Messenger’ followed on from an already impressive list of published work.

The hardback edition includes a small number of black & white illustrations by Erik Wilson.

DLS Synopsis:
In the quiet middle-class town of Danelleton in
Florida, a crazed postal worker works his way down Gatesman Lane, stopping off at each house on his way, slaughtering all those inside.  The postal worker named Dodd finally ends the rampage by taking his own life after this lengthy episode of mass murder and mutilation.

Twenty years later and the Jane Ryan is the station manager for the newly re-opened second post office of the ever expanding town of Danelleton.  However, before the post office has had chance to get into the swing of things, the well-liked postal worker, Marlene Troy, goes on her very own rampage, unloading an Ingram MAC-11 submachine gun on to both the public and her co-workers within the old post office.  Marlene is soon shot dead by the police.

Following the burial of Marlene, her corpse is exhumed late at night and dumped in Jane Ryan’s new office.  The police are baffled and suspect a bizarre religious cult is perhaps to blame for the frenzied murder spree and subsequent unearthing of Marlene’s corpse.  A mysterious sketch of a bell with a single star as its striker is found in Malene’s possession, furthering their suspicions of cult involvement.  

Meanwhile, after postal worker Carlton Spence finds a package hidden deep in the basement of the newly re-opened post office, he witnesses horrific visions of hell in which his missing daughter is spending eternity in perpetual torment.  Following the vision, Carlton (now guided by a mysterious presence) embarks on a horrendous killing spree at the Seaton School for Christian Girls.  After the horrific murders and subsequent mutilation, Carlton’s corpse is found hanging by his neck by his own intestines.  The image of the bell with its single star striker is found painted in blood on the shower walls.  Carlton Spence was also a popular individual both in and out of his job at the postal service.

A pattern is beginning to emerge.  The police maintain their suspicions of a cult.  Chief Steve Higgins is heading up the investigation.  Higgins seems to be the only one who has noticed the correlation between the recent murders and those from twenty years ago.  Indeed, he seems to be the only one who even remembers the atrocities of that day.

Behind it all lies an evil that is working its way free from the constraints of hell.  The devil’s messenger has returned to Danelleton and is using those it selects to spread its message of blood and mayhem.  Hell is restless and its torturous infernos are ready to accept those it chooses to take.  Corruption, sexual deviancy, murder and blasphemy will follow...

DLS Review:
From the very outset, Lee sets down a plot screaming with burning evil that allows brief glimpses of the atrocities that hell and its savage messenger are capable of.  The numerous scenes of murder, mutilation and lust fuelled sexual deviancy (both in the storyline and as part of characters' disturbing visions) are packed with a dark imagination that has been taken to some of the furthest and most cruel limits imaginable.

Lee goes for an all-out, no holds-barred approach with the visions of hell, throwing in a veritable tsunami of horrific images of depravity to attack the readers' senses.  This strong adult theme is a constantly recurring element to the tale, with the storyline leaping from one potentially unsettling depiction of cruelty and murder to the next.

With echoes of Clive Barker’s similarly dark fiction, Lee delves into the potentially dangerous field of extreme sadomasochistic violence and the corruptible will within us all.  Indeed, the tale as a whole reads as a bizarre cross between Richard Laymon’s gore laced novel ‘Flesh’ (1987) Clive Barker’s early novella ‘The Hellbound Heart’ (1986) as well as Guy N Smith’s pulp novel ‘Deathbell’ (1980) thrown in for good measure.

The twist ending is somewhat predictable; however this does not seem to ultimately detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the novel.  The characters are all well-developed without tediously over-working their characterisation, keeping the emphasis of the novel on the actual events at hand rather than the lives of the characters.

All in all, the novel is a truly enjoyable read, packed with all things nasty and cruel.  The storyline is fast paced with a deeply mysterious quality maintained for the majority of the tale.  Lee’s dark and truly twisted imagination are the key elements to the novel, which allows it to reach out from the pages and drag you in to his horrifying world.

The novel runs for a total of 342 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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