Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have returned with a new brand of exquisite horror for their readers in The Hollow Ones. The writing team has a way of using language and imagery that creeps into the marrow of your bones in their writing. Whether they are invoking psychological terror or writing about things that go bump in the night, they scare and scare well. Del Toro and Chuck Hogan are also authors of the New York Times bestselling series, The Strain trilogy, adapted to the hit tv show The Strain by FX that aired between 2014 – 2017. Del Toro is a director and writer with notable movies such as Mimic, Hellboy, and Pan’s Labyrinth. Chuck Hogan, who is both a writer of screenplays and novels, has eight books of horror and mystery stories.
“To anyone other than a law enforcement professional, the classification of the crime matters little. The only truly important fact of the matter was that, for more than sixty years, Unruh’s shooting spree stood as the worst rampage killing in New Jersey.
That is, until the night Walt Leppo ordered meatloaf.”
The Hollow Ones follows FBI Agent Odessa Hardwicke as she tracks down who or more importantly what killed her partner. Because even though Odessa pulled the trigger, something happened to her partner before he went crazy. And, like a cat, Odessa is full of curiosity that might get her killed. She wants to know who or what is causing this string of murder and suicides in her city. A low-level desk assignment leads her to a senior FBI agent Earl Solomon, who is coming to the end of his life. Earl introduces her to the mysterious John Silence, a man who is so much more than he seems. The John Silence character is originally based on an Algernon Blackwood character written in the early 1900s about the ‘psychic physician.’ Between Silence’s stoicism and mystery and Odessa’s curiosity, the two follow a trail of demons, magic, and the occult that leads to the answer of what killed Odessa’s partner.
The Hollow Ones are two dueling narratives. That of young and intrepid FBI agent Odessa Hardwicke. Who in the opening scenes of the story has to make a career-ending decision of killing her partner or watch him kill someone. It is unexplainable what happened to Odessa’s partner, and the FBI is in the business of real data and evidence. This case is a career-ender for Odessa. She is put on a desk job that leads her to clean out former agent Solomon’s office. Odessa brings Solomon his things in the hospital. We flash to the other narrative of a young and bold Solomon at the beginning of his career in the 1960s. He is the first African American agent in the FBI and is investigating the lynching of a white man in the south. Solomon crosses path with John Silence and with John Solomon investigates the death. There are parallels drawn between Solomon’s and Odessa’s career. Each follows a similar path with the commonality of John Silence.
“Odessa was riveted, reexperiencing her own trauma as she listened.”
Solomon has aged and is now laying dying in the hospital, Odessa is a brand new agent being first introduced to the occult, yet John Silence is the same as ever. As the story progresses, the two distinct stories wind around each other until they eventually mesh into present times. Dek Toro and Hogan do this well. The pacing of the story is quick and exciting. I was as invested in Odessa’s fate as I was Solomons. However, there is a sparseness to the writing that leads to a lack of character development. I wanted more from these characters, especially Silence. It is one thing to tell me that Silence has been around a long time, and it is another to demonstrate that. Same with Solomon. A reader could learn so much more from him. Instead, it felt like Solomon was a passing conduit to get Odessa to John Silence. Parts of this book almost felt like reading a screenplay without set descriptions; it perfectly played out in Del Toro’s and Hogan’s head but did not quite make the transition to the written page. And even though it was still a very entertaining story, the brusqueness of the dialog and story beats left me feeling disconnected from the characters.
“He remembered she recoiled from the taste, the flavor of solder lingering in his mouth. She said she woke the next morning with the burnt taste still upon her palate, the source of which he could not explain.”
However, even though the story felt compressed, there is still enough meat for a great trilogy. We are just starting on our journey with Odessa and John Silence, but if this story is any indication of the thrills in the upcoming books, we are in for a treat.
Read The Hollow Ones by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan