The Night Cache
Hardcover, £7.50 [$12.00]
Review by Lisa Morton
Andy Duncan’s The Night Cache begins with a reference to Val Lewton, and that’s no coincidence, because much of this intriguing novelette reveals as little as a Lewton thriller. Clues are provided, darker secrets are hinted at, but you won’t find a glimpse of an actual monster here.
Unlike Cat People or The Seventh Victim, The Night Cache is not suffused with a dense, mood-drenched atmosphere, but is instead couched in the breezy shell of a near-chicklit romance. Jennifer is a book clerk (in a chain store she calls “Yarns Ignoble”) who gets tangled up with Destiny Creech, a reckless and temperamental puzzle-lover who is obsessed with “geocaching,” a sort of treasure hunt game in which small items are hidden and clues are provided via GPS coordinates. Destiny deliberately keeps Jen in a state of mystery surrounding much of her life; a chance encounter with a cop who knows Des leaves Jen more, not less, perplexed.
After circumstances leave Jen alone to resolve the ultimate mystery of Destiny’s life, she meets up with the closest thing The Night Cache has to a real villain: Des’s wealthy, cold mother. Clues eventually lead Jen to an isolated swamp and a “night cache,” or a treasure that can only be located by finding a nearby reflective object at night.
Duncan’s writing is assured and frequently humorous, and his characters are compelling. He makes good use of the mysterious side of geocaching as a metaphor for the ultimate mystery of life – death – and provides plentiful and entertaining examples of the cryptograms Jen must solve. If his climax offers up a supernatural suggestion that it (sadly) never really explores, Duncan nevertheless provides a last half that moves briskly and provides both tension and nicely observed melancholy.
The Night Cache is a fast, wry little tale for readers who are willing to forego the usual tropes of horror fiction in favor of something less easy to define.