Dark Ink, the second novel from Gary Kemble, picks up a year or so after the events of Strange Ink. Harry Hendrick, roving reporter/investigator/possessor of multiple tattoos and otherworldly skills from beyond the grave, is finding that fame is a fleeting thing that doesn’t pay the bills. It also shuts as many doors in his face as it opens as not everyone is happy with the part he played in book one. Hunting around for the next big scoop, he finds himself enlisted by a friend on the police force to unofficially look into a series of strange and gruesome deaths that have the police stumped.
Before he knows it, he finds himself drawn into a web of conspiracy, politics, sex and black magic that may just threaten his sanity, his life and his soul. Who is the mysterious Goddess that demands all these lives and what drives her servant, the enigmatic and alluring Mistress Hel?
Putting it bluntly, Dark Ink is a damn good read. Strange Ink was a great first novel, but there were issues with it that were raised in our previous review, plot threads left dangling that never seemed to quite go anywhere. Dark Ink, though, takes all these issues, fixes them, and then layers on a lovely big helping of world-building and character development as we delve deeper into Queensland’s murky, supernatural underbelly. This book is a delicious mix of horror, thriller and noir-esque detective novel, steeped in politics of not only the civil but the sexual kind.
Touching on issues of abuse, both in a sexual sense and in political power, adding to the lore established in the first book and mixing up the supernatural elements, Gary Kemble has delivered everything I hoped the sequel would be. I devoured the entire book in a day, unable to put it down until I knew how it would end. Harry is a beautifully written character, as flawed and fallible as any of us, still remaining sympathetic even when he’s being an arsehole, and as the body count rises and the tension ratchets ever higher, the reader can’t help but wonder if Harry will make it out of the story alive.
Fans of horror, rejoice. There’s a new author bringing us all new dread and it is GLORIOUS. Dark Ink is a welcome addition to the canon of modern-day horror and will leave its reader hoping that there is at least one more book in the increasingly strange life of Harry Hendrick.