James Norman's Echoes
(Nenka, 380 pages, $15.95 paper), the first book in a planned series starring the radio journalist Jack MacNeil, revolves around the farfetched notion of a cave filled with voices that echo-endlessly. Jack's curiosity lands him face to face with Toronto's underworld. In the course of his investigation, he is confronted with the past "echoing" in the present, leading eventually to a showdown with Frank Carson, a murderer and the mastermind of a multi-million-dollar robbery.
Unfortunately, there's far too much that's hard to swallow-not just the echoes themselves, but also Jack's ability to sketch faces from voices, the way the police let him withhold evidence, and Carson's supposedly guilt-induced hallucinations of rotting corpses. Also, Norman tends to lapse into descriptive abominations. Laughter is "instantly drowned in a gurgling mass of blood"; blood is like "lava spewing into the air from a volcano"; ghosts have "black mucus" running from their "bulging eyes".