Amber Benson &
Christopher Golden,
The Seven Whistlers
(Subterranean, 2006)

It was already late when I started to read. My wife and kids were asleep, the house was quiet. I'd been sick that day and was tired, but strangely alert; I hoped a little light reading would put me in a drowse and let me get some much-needed rest. So I picked the top book off one of several to-read piles strategically located around the house and settled in for a quick couple of pages.

My mistake. The next book on the stack was The Seven Whistlers by actress Amber Benson (best known as Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and author Christopher Golden. I was up 'til 6, when I finished the story.

Fortunately for my health and well-being, it's a short novel, only 143 pages. For all its brevity, it is powerful, beautifully conceived and developed, and utterly riveting.

Set in a small Vermont town, the story revolves around Rose Kerrigan and the death of her beloved grandfather. Shortly after his death, the town witnesses the appearance of several large dogs, fierce and blacker than night, who seem to carry bad luck in their wake. Heralded by piercing whistles, the dogs are a menacing, unexplained presence -- and their number is growing.

Rose soon learns the legend of the Seven Whistlers, hellhounds who hunt and claim the essence of a special breed of damned souls. They could be after Rose's sweet, kindly grandfather, could they? Well, she better figure it out soon, because once all seven hounds congregate together, the consequences could be dire for everyone.

Benson and Golden have created a new mythology that rings true. The Seven Whistlers are a new concept with a musty air; I half expect to find references to them in my folklore reference library. And, in relatively few pages, the writers have given life to fully rounded characters who you'd might well meet on the streets of their little New England town. The tale itself unfolds at a rich, leisurely pace that belies the book's slimness.

And the end of the story is probably not what you'd anticipate.

This is a writing force to be reckoned with, a team who can produce the kind of modern mythic fiction that drives Gaiman, de Lint and Bull fans wild. I fully expect to see more from this pair, with wider distribution. It's too good not to share.

by Tom Knapp
17 February 2007

[ visit Christopher Golden's website ]

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