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Ben Larken's Pillar's Fall

 

Pillar’s Fall: The Legend of Pillar – Book One, by Ben LarkenReviewed by Geoff NelderA good policemen throws a young boy off a bridge. It saves life, but harbingers much more than simple life and death.Paperback: 286 pages Publisher: LL-Publications (October 31, 2010) ISBN-13: 978-1905091874  Right from the start I fell into the easy style of Larken’s prose. Now that’s surprising given the uneasy depths that make up the story. Here we have Pillar, who seems to be a straight-forward cop, who doesn’t need to make promotion waves because he has an idyllic marriage and all’s well with the world – until he has throw a young boy off a bridge to his certain death. Now, that’s some hook. Was he saving his own skin, or those of others, or was he being worked on by mysterious forces? Pillar can’t or won’t believe in the supernatural although he helps out at his local church. That is, he might accept the concept of God but has trouble with the existence of demons and angels, more believing in hallucinations or that some criminal mastermind is messing with him.The clever plotting of this book has the reader – for a long time - trying to guess whether the ensuing ghastly deaths and voices, along with weird visions are the hallucinations of a troubled cop’s mind or real? But then we are forced to consider what is ‘real’? The unravelling of more horrors with increasing hints of his own involvement – like it or not – takes Pillar to the edge, several edges, along with the reader.The use of a police detective, who is drawn into abnormal forces has precedent in Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s masterful 9 Tail Fox. Pillar’s Fall is at least as brilliant. Characters are paired then turn against each other. Love, empathy, friendship slide between the forces of evil here. The detective story aspect of Pillar’s Fall is exceedingly convincing, probably a result of Ben Larken’s experience working in the police force. I don’t just mean the command structure and procedures but in the rivalry, and ‘feel’ of policemen encountering scenes of unbridled gore. The horror is more insidious than in most of the genre by the cunning use of moments of reflection, more so with tenderness. In particular, Pillar’s love for his wife, Charlotte, results in near poetic phrasing such as ‘her breath tugging on a soft snore’. No irritation there yet he is agonised by his love because of the awful secrets he’s having to hold. I particularly enjoyed this paragraph from Charlotte: ‘I spend all day in counselling sessions, staring at people with dull, oppressed, dead eyes. And then on the drive home I see the same eyes on every commuter... Then I get home ... your eyes are sad, but they’re full of the essence of life. In your eyes I see a battle to figure it all out.’ If only she knew, but then she yearned to know. There are literary gems in the narrative I wish I’d written. Echoes are here of Wordsworth’s The Child is Father of the Man, when Larken has children able to detect (some) ghosts when ordinary people cannot. A master class in creative writing sneaks in several places such as when Paula is decapitated in a section following her point of view. In any other book that would be the end of her narrative, but whoa! she continues – and it makes sense. Brilliant.For those admirers of Ben Larken’s debut novel, Pit-Stop, a work of genius, they will find shades of reflection here. For example we experience that state of limbo, with characters shivering with initial denial then comes the shock of acceptance. Detective Tom Pillar isn’t in limbo although he is initially in denial. He is pilloried by his detective peers, but escapes and thwarts the dark force enemy, for now... until Book Two.