Shaytan: A Journey into Evil

by David S. Arthur
Brighton Publishing

"He stared for a moment at the glowering mask as if mesmerized by its shimmering glass eyes then whispered, 'From all that flies, from all that crawls, from all that prowls the mountain, oh night, protect us.'"

India, with its varied religious beliefs and unique blending of ethnic cultures, has long held a fascination for Westerners. Possibly because of its shared history with this ancient land, England has arguably produced some of the finest tales to emerge in literature about the subcontinent. However, the author, a native Texan, convincingly bucks that trend in a well-written novel that manages to deftly capture the magic and mystery of its exotic location.

Told in journal entries from the book's three main characters, Arthur's story chronicles the second adventure of a couple from the British Isle of Wight that were first introduced in The Kingdom of Keftiu: A Mystery of the Ancient World. Richard and Emily Quizzenbury first arrive in postcolonial India simply to see the sights and explore some of its history while staying with Richard's school chum, Victor Bloodworth. Soon, though, the visitors find themselves on an extended hunt with their host for a man-killing leopard that the locals believe to actually be a demon in feline form. What the three encounter during their quest will forever change them.

Danger, death, and the supernatural abound in this excellent historical thriller. Arthur has managed to recreate the voice and atmosphere of some of the exploration classics of the past such as Conrad's Heart of Darkness but with a style more suited for modern readers. The use of complimentary journal entries not only adds a touch of false realism to the story but also does a superb job of developing the characters. Perhaps the most intriguing elements of the book come from the historical and religious details that are woven through the narrative, even if the latter at times seems a bit more promotional than informative. Their inclusion transform an already engaging adventure tale into a novel of literary worth.

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