Bonhomme Sept-Heures – Evan May (2016)

My initial intrigue in reading Evan May’s Bonhomme Sept-Heures was my familiarity with the legend based on the horror movies The Bonesetter (2003) and The Bonesetter Returns (2005)  by Brett Kelly. After attending the premiere of the first film I thought that the character and story were original until I did a little more digging. It turns out that the legend of a stovepipe hatted entity who snatches children when they stay outdoors beyond seven o’clock at night is steeped in Quebec lore. Variations on the legend have this character going from town to town as travelling medical practitioner, hence “bone-setter”, which is phonetically close to “Bonhomme Sept-Heures” in French which, as a whole, loosely translates to “The seven o’clock man”.

That being said, what I expected here was a horror story, pure and simple, much like the movie presentations. However this novel ended up being more of a paranormal fantasy playing out largely as police/detective procedural rather than any real horror narrative.

Our story begins (well more on that later) with a convicted murderer, Adam Godwinson, who is not only a priest but an ex-bookseller. The background to his current incarceration is vaguely explained as an encounter with members of some secretive foundation under the influence of an evil entity – coined “The Infection” – which Adam and crew of youths managed to repress but at the cost of his own freedom. Suddenly out of nowhere David Prentiss, an official of some indeterminate (yet powerful) law enforcement agency visits Adam in prison and offers him immediate limited freedom if he joins the agent to help solve a case of a serial child killer currently on a killing spree in a remote Quebec town.

When Prentiss, Adam, and Jack – a chaperon of sorts to keep an eye out on Adam – arrive in Lac de Thé they are met with a reluctant Sûreté du Québec (provincial police force), distraught citizens, an oddly inquisitive school teacher, a local bigot drunkard, and a skeptical clergyman among others. Later joined by one of Adams former students, now a reporter, the team have to disseminate what little evidence they have to determine if they are dealing with a serial killer or if some mystic force is in play. And as time ticks away they dread that yet another young body may show up.

My one problem with the novel is that almost from the very beginning with the explanation of Adam’s incarceration flashback I sensed that what I was reading was in fact a sequel to a previous story. Sure enough when I checked I learned that May wrote King in Darkness which was published a year prior which described those events completely. Unfortunate as a number of the characters and events are fleetingly reference here which often left me confused without the proper context while adding little, if anything, to this story.  Nowhere in this book is the prequel even mentioned. Neither front or back covers, acknowledgements, or even the author bio make any mention of it which is a shame as I would have read that book first.

I do heartily recommend this book but do yourself a favour and get King in Darkness first to get the most out of this one.

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