Charlotte Markham only ever intended to be a governess for the young Darrow boys in their large and eerie house. She certainly never meant to fall for the young widowed Master Darrow – not after the tragedy in her own recent past. But when the boys’ nanny is found brutally murdered, and Charlotte takes over those duties as well as her own, she finds herself being pulled deeper and deeper into the Darrows’ lives, and the mystery that surrounds them all.
This is one of those unfortunate cases where the potential in a book becomes a negative rather than an asset. From the very beginning, Charlotte Markham, the debut novel from Michael Boccacino, had so much potential. However, by the third part of the book I had pretty much lost track of what was going on – and almost stopped caring because of this. The prose was beautiful, lush and descriptive. Overly descriptive. In many ways, it reminded me of Kirsty Eagar’s Night Beach, in that the fantasy part of the story made very little sense, yet was beautifully rendered.
Boccacino’s Ending was detailed and imaginative, but I kept feeling that he had imagined it so precisely that he assumed we knew exactly how it worked – just as he did – and just had to be shown how it looked. For example, the creatures in the Ending were described right down to the last tentacle, but I remain in the dark as to what they actually were. I couldn’t work out who Mr Whatley was, what Mr Whatley was, why he was sometimes bad and sometimes good and sometimes neither…then there was another bad guy (but was he actually the bad guy? I don’t know)…then there were people being blown to bits and ripped apart – the last half of the book completely lost me.
Some books thrive on being nonsensical (Alice in Wonderland; Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), but even they are somewhat rooted in fact or, at the very least, coherence. That Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling lacks that coherence is hugely disappointing, because I adored the first third, and still enjoyed the second. I do love Boccacino’s writing style, and perhaps the sporadic nature of the last half is due to his previous work as a poet. I hope that his next fiction attempt makes more sense than this one, because I am not ready to give up on him. I will eagerly read his next novel offering, and in the meantime seek out his poetry to tide me by.