Sacra Obscurum is the debut novel by Todd Allen. He has a very comfortable style that really captures the imagination of the reader. Beyond a somewhat slow start, Sacra Obscurum has some very compelling elements.
The story follows a clinical psychiatrist called Matt Dawson. His life and career gets turned upside down the day his father dies, leaving him to pick up the loose ends. Matt makes the trip back to his relatively small hometown in order to bury Stanley Dawson, but he also has to handle the practice his father left behind. Suspecting the whole scenario to be simple and quick, Matt realizes that his stay won’t be as short lived as he anticipated.
Among the patients his father treated is an alleged killer by the name of Morris Dykeman. For the most part Dykeman was kept under heavy sedation and the longer Matt stays the creepier things get. It doesn’t take long for matt to discover his father’s obsession with the occult and his connection with the slaughter that took place for which Dykeman was accused. Unfortunately his father wasn’t the only connection. While Matt struggles to uncover the truth and to find the book that can supposedly bring everything to light there are certain individuals standing in his way.
Starting with the good aspects of the book, Allen shows great control and flow over the story. Even though the story is told from a third person point-of-view the reader always feels connected to the main character in some way. Another great thing about Allen’s style is the clarity of the tone and progression. He doesn’t leave any room for the reader to be confused or unsure and he didn’t forget to include the tiny details that make the characters human.
On the more critical side, the overall plot isn’t the most original. The distant relationship between father and son, combined with the son’s return to his hometown for the funeral of his father will probably remind the reader of several other movies and books. Even though it is written very well the cliché makes the rest of the plot somewhat predictable. In terms of the characters, some lack depth while Matt’s persona fails to create a unique edge that makes him stand out.
Regardless of these critical aspects Allen still does a good job for a debut novel. He manages to keep the interest of his readers and he induces a manner of curiosity towards how the story is going to unfold. For readers in search of a horror novel that isn’t filled with graphic scenes and foul language then this book is perfect. Allen’s version of what the occult and Satanism entails is very interesting, although it probably won’t lead to any nightmares. For hardcore horror fans it might not be the most exciting story.
Overall it’s a very well written book and many readers will appreciate the approach Allen used. I believe if he can utilize his comfortable style with more dramatic inter play his next book will be a great progression for a new writer.
Todd lives on the East Coast of Canada with two beautiful ladies—his wife Michelle, and daughter, Maya. A lifelong fan of all things horror, Todd has thrown his hat into the literary ring with his debut novel, Sacra Obscurum.
Influenced by the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft, and raised on the ever-present Stephen King and Peter Straub, Todd aims to deliver his own brand of creeping, cerebral horror.
Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.