J.G. Walker: Book Review – Broken Sigil by William Meikle

broken_sigilWith his new horror novella Broken Sigil, author William Meikle wastes no time in getting us directly into the story, which is good because there’s not a lot of time to get where we’re going. The book weighs in at only around sixty pages, but it moves at a brisk clip, and a lot happens between points A and Z. 

Joe Connors is a New York City cop who works for Internal Affairs. Not surprisingly, he’s no one’s favorite guy, but then he really doesn’t seem to care. In fact, when we first meet him, he gives the impression that he doesn’t care about much of anything. Until, that is, he shows up at a fallen officer situation to find that the downed cop is his ex-partner, Johnny Provan. Joe and Johnny hadn’t seen each other in a few years, and we soon discover there’s a good reason: A few years back, Johnny was having an affair with Joe’s wife, and a fight over that relationship may have contributed to her death in a car accident. 

Back in the present, Provan has been shot by his partner, a young officer who tells Joe that Johnny came running out of a brownstone, ranting and raving and scaring him badly enough to fear for his life. So he shot him. And if that weren’t strange enough, an autopsy reveals that Provan has a five-pointed star carved into his abdomen. This is where the story turns especially interesting. And creepy.

While investigating the shooting, Joe meets the odd people who inhabit the brownstone where his ex-partner died. Mrs. Gasper is a nervous elderly woman obsessed with a wall mirror, Mr. Brown lives in an apartment full of notebooks packed with details about the events taking place in the building, and Madam Girotte is the self-described “concierge” of the place.

Even stranger, not only did all of the brownstone residents know Johnny, he had an apartment there, a perfect copy of the one he had in the Bronx. As Joe continues to dig deeper into the mystery, reminiscing about his relationships with his wife and Joe and mixing with these bizarre characters and their secrets, he finds himself drawn into their weirdness, and not entirely against his will.

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Broken Sigil is moody, dark, and packs an impressive amount of old-school horror into a slim volume. William Meikle takes this story in some decidedly unexpected directions, which is refreshing. It’s nice when a storyteller keeps us guessing, and it’s even better when we’re genuinely surprised. The lead-in to this one, while important, doesn’t give away much about how the story is going to progress. We may think we know, but we probably don’t. Rather than being just another procedural where a cop/detective learns terrifying things about people he thought he knew—though there is certainly that—Meikle spins us a more complex and frightening tale about love, loss, and a dangerous obsession with recapturing the past. 

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