In the Shadows of Children is a slow-burning tale of forgotten fears, family secrets, childhood tragedies . . . and the boogeyman in the closet. Alan Ryker takes his time getting started, slowly building a backstory for his protagonist and building the atmosphere of his childhood home, but it's all necessary to create the sense of mystery needed to drive the story forward.
This is a short tale, even for a novella, so it's hard to talk about much of the plot without getting into spoiler territory. The set-up is pretty simple, with a young man returning home to deal with the death of his mother, and being forced to confront the long ago disappearance of his younger brother. The house unsettles him, triggering fragments of memories, but it's not until a voice calls to him from the closet that he begins to remember why he fled that bedroom for the freedom and security of a college deliberately far away.
It's a creepy tale, with some really effective moments, both creepy and ordinary. It's at the point where Aaron calls home to talk to his son about the boogeyman that story really gets interesting, and it's with the twist that follows that Ryker provides the ultimate payoff. Aaron is largely unlikable as a protagonist, and while we sympathize with him, it's hard not to blame him for the role he played in that childhood tragedy. Oddly, that coldness is why the story works, making us confront what lies In the Shadows of Children.
Kindle Edition, 61 pages
Expected publication: November 11th 2014 by DarkFuse