Dead Five’s Pass by Colin F. Barnes

I’m yet to read a book by Mr Barnes that I haven’t enjoyed. This one is no exception. This book is described as Lovecraftian and it passes the tentacles test. The tentacles are even attached to an ancient alien intelligence. More than that though it is about that creeping fear that starts as a draught on the back of the neck and slowly builds in to a full-blown spine tingle.

For all the story and world-building in this book the thing that really stands out for me is the relationship between the two main characters. Carise and Marcel used to be together but dealing with loss tore them apart. The way the author manages to portray not only the distance and pain they both feel but the bond of shared experience underlying it is masterfully done. I could easily empathize and relate to the loss and anguish that pervades their relationship.

The plot is quite simple. A new cave has opened on a mountain and local climbers are eager to be the first person to explore them. That’s when the body count starts to rise. Carise and Marcel are a pair of rescue climbers tasked with retrieving stuck climbers. Once they speak to one of the climbers it becomes clear that there is more to this cave than a simple hole in the rock. That’s when things start to get weird and the rescuers descend in to the unknowable.

This novella has great emotional content and yet still provides the shock of sudden violence and head squeezing other-worldliness you’d expect in a Lovecraftian tale. Skip that frothy coffee today and buy this instead.

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