Robert Holdstock is perhaps most famous for “Mythago Wood” and the other novels in that series. I first encountered him in the 1980s via the Night Hunter series writing as Robert Faulcon.
There are six books in the series:
The books were initially published as cheap mass-market fiction with cheap and fairly awful covers as can be seen in the links to the books’ goodreads pages above. The writing within is, however, much more interesting than the covers and production values might suggest.
Dan Brady has a reasonably normal life despite working on paranormal research at a Ministry of Defence laboratory in England. His daughter has been having nightmares of a figure made out of smoke, but otherwise, life is good, and he’s looking forward to Christmas in a few days. One night people dressed in animal masks break into his home sexually abuse his wife and steal his wife and children away. Dan is left for dead; tied up and unable to move despite the absence of anything physical binding him.
Three months later, Dan awakes in a hospital, an object of fear of the nurses who must care for him due to several supernatural occurrences and the deaths of a nurse and other patients on the same ward. Clinging to the thought that his family may still be alive, he dedicates his life to finding them and taking vengeance on the people who stole his wife and children away.
So far, nothing special. This sounds like a standard crime or fantasy quest; but, for me, at least, there is something special about this series. The writing is reasonably engaging, and the characters are somewhat two-dimensional, but its the depiction of the supernatural that stands out for me. Magic and psychic powers exist in this story, but the magic is grubby and somewhat shamanistic. Strong forces exist, and they corrupt those who use them. People gain powers, but they seem to lose their humanity and stop caring for themselves or their loved ones. Behind it all is the shadowy and secretive organisation Arachne that appears to have contacts everywhere and inspires fear in anyone who knows of it.
The other thing I enjoyed about this series is that as Dan becomes exposed to this secretive occult world around him, he changes but does not become suddenly all-knowing and powerful but bumbles around blindly searching for clues as anyone else would when suddenly exposed to a world previously beyond his comprehension. Arachne and its minions don’t fear Dan so much as despise him. He is a nuisance who gets in their way. Dan himself is an average, flawed, person who does not always act in his own and others best interests. Yet, gradually as the series progresses, Dan does make progress, but as he does the sense of menace grows.
While most of the action takes place in the United Kingdom, parts of the story unfold in the USA and Greece. This gives the sense that Arachne is a vast, global organisation with an end game that is not going to change the world for the better.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I would recommend the series despite its flaws. It would be fascinating to see what a write such as Brandon Sanderson would do with this material and the world.