The last novella from DarkFuse in June 2014 that I had to read was "Relic of Death" by David Bernstein. As with many DarkFuse books, this was another novella by an author that I was not familiar with but I went into the story hopeful of finding another story that would thrill and entertain.
Two mob enforcers are leaving the site of their latest execution in a remote wood when their SUV suddenly breaks down. With nothing else they can do, they set off on foot to find a way to get help back to the city. They come across a house that is inexplicably well re-enforced against a break in but the two manage to enter the house in hopes of finding a means of calling for help. When searching the empty building, the come across an old safe that holds nothing but an old briefcase. As the two leave to make their way home, they discover that the briefcase hold a fortune in diamonds that could change their lives forever. Their lives do change but not in the way in which they expected.
The briefcase is not really a briefcase but an ancient relic that can lead to the destruction of civilization. As it passes from hand to hand, it shows its bearer what appears to be the answer to their deepest desires only to twist that desire into destruction and death. Several people come into possession of the briefcase only to find their dreams destroyed. The briefcase shows a glimpse into a bright future only to leave its bearer locked into a desperate battle for survival.
"Relic of Death' is an odd novella in that it is really not a unified story but rather a series of shorter vignettes centered around the battered briefcase. This ancient relic feeds upon the hopes of its owner as it twists those hopes to suit its own evil needs. It presents its owner with the illusion of the thing that they most desire but it proof that people should not always get what they want. It is an ancient force that is based on greed which mind and the relic is the means in which this evil force is unleashed. It is a brutal story in which the reader can twist human greed to feed it through pain an suffering. The only central "character" in this novella is the relic as it passes from owner to owner while all the time furthering its own twisted end.
While "Relic of Death" is far from a traditional story, it is an extremely terrifying and entertaining read. Bernstein seems to realize that the greatest source of evil can be the dark desires locked within the human can see the end to each chapter before it unfolds but is caught in the story waiting to see just how each character is going to be systematically destroyed. I was terrified every time the relic changed hands and wanted to enter the story and warn the characters of the death and destruction that they will ultimately stumble into. That is the true power of this story. Bernstein does not so much set out to terrify the reader rather than to set the stage to allow the readers to scare themselves. Readers are left in horror to watch the characters act in a very believable manner that will lead to their destruction and that is a very powerful thing. Even though many of the characters only enter the story for a few pages, it is easy to slide into their shoes and realize that their actions and thoughts are a mirror of those reading the book and that everyone reading the story is likely to make the same choices that ultimately lead to death.
I would like to thank DarkFuse and NetGalley for this advance review copy. "Relic of Death" is scheduled to be released by DarkFuse in June and is available for preorder now.