Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Guido Henkel
Published by Thunder Peak Publishing
If there’s one thing that I love, it’s good, old-fashioned, pulpy noir stories. Larger-than-life heroes, damsels in distress (who often can kick as much ass as the hero), and a bit of the darker supernatural element hook me like few things can. So when I had the chance to review Guido Henkel’s new series of Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter books, I jumped at the chance.
Jason Dark, the fearless and resourceful ghost hunter, comes across as the supernatural counterpart to Sherlock Holmes, the early-London version of Sam Spade, but with ghosts and monsters. Together with Siu Lin (the “Watson” to his “Holmes”), they make their way through England, solving crimes and finding causes of weird goings-on. In the first volume, “Demon’s Night”, Dark takes on an evil entity that leaves its victims dried out like jerky in pursuit of a mysterious artifact. Along the way the entity invades Chinatown, where Dark meets his capable companion, Siu Lin, for the first time. Volume Two, “Theater of Vampires”, begins with a Victorian theater where the stage magic is just a little too real and the performers rely on more than accolades from their patrons. Volume Three, “Ghosts Templar”, opens with a missing constable, which leads Dark and Siu Lin to a small village where rumors of undead knights and murders put the intrepid duo through another extraordinary adventure.
One of the things that sets this series apart from others is its “dime novel” format. Weighing in at a mere 62 pages apiece, one might be inclined to think of the books as little more than pamphlets; however, what Henkel accomplishes in those scant pages could be a primer to new writers with much longer books. To put it bluntly, Henkel gets right to the point without mucking about and goes straight for the throat in every paragraph. There’s not one piece of unimportant information, not one tangent followed. Jason Dark is a man on a mission, and the tight focus of the books conveys that feeling to the reader. Designed to be read on the fly, the books are tasty diversions that don’t require a huge time investment, while still being enjoyable.
Another positive comes from Henkel’s style of writing. His prose hearkens back to older-school books with authors like Dashiell Hammett and Arthur Conan Doyle to give the real flavor of pulp fiction. Much like other older works, it may seem uncomfortable to people raised on modern literature, but it is easy to get sucked into Jason Dark’s world. Also, much like old serials, one of the great things about this series is that Dark is the quintessential old-world hero. The reader knows he’s going to go into a weird situation, encounter bizarre circumstances, and win out in the end. Much like Holmes, it’s not the outcome that’s so important but how he gets there.
The series’ strength due to its brevity is also it’s only real drawback. Every one of these stories could hold its own as a longer, more detailed work and, in some cases, beg to be so. They provide a snack for the reader, but they could easily provide a banquet. If good, old-fashioned escapism is what you’re looking for, the Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter series is worth a try.
4 1/2 out of 5
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