Darkness Below

Fiction - Horror
330 Pages
Reviewed on 02/15/2023
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Barbara Cottrell gave up her career as a professor to pursue her true passion: writing weird fiction. She is the author of Darkness Below and is a lifetime member of the Horror Writers Association. She enjoys presenting her work in unusual venues like Mystery Writers in the Mausoleum and Word Horde Emporium of The Weird and Fantastic. She also served as a judge on the Redwood Writer Anthologies Redemption: Stories from the Edge, Endeavor: Stories of Struggle and Perseverance, and helped edit Remember When and On Fire. She lives in Sonoma County on a not-at-all-haunted vineyard. When she isn’t exploring the dark side, she makes wine with her husband, Lance.

To find out more about her and the world of Miskatonic University, visit www.barbaracottrell.com.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Melanie Kennedy for Readers' Favorite

Darkness Below by Barbara Cottrell is one of the best paranormal horror stories I’ve read in a while. Ellen Logan is a psychic. And where’s the best place for a psychic to gain higher learning but Miskatonic University? With its history of being built on the remnants of an insane asylum, it only makes sense that the university is dedicated to investigating the supernatural. A desperate plea from one of her fellow students forces Ellen into the most dangerous investigation of her life. Someone is trying to summon a monstrous entity to harness its power and will stop at nothing to get their way. With the help of her mysterious professor, uncle, and fellow psychics, Ellen must step up to the plate to save not only herself but potentially the whole world from the evil lurking below.

I absolutely loved Darkness Below. No words could do it justice, but I’ll try my best. It is so incredibly well-written and captivating. Barbara Cottrell has created a magnificent world steeped in art, emotions, and the supernatural. I loved her references to real art pieces and artists as I found myself Googling them and marveling at how beautiful their horror and absurdity could be – much like the Shadows of Miskatonic universe. I was so happy to read that Barbara will be continuing the series, as I need to read more about Ellen and her will-they-won’t-they relationship with a certain gentleman. I would highly recommend Darkness Below to anyone that wants to read a well-written, enticing story with fleshed-out characters and loads of suspense.

Cecelia Hopkins

Darkness Below by Barbara Cottrell introduces Ellen Logan, who is experiencing distressing visions of being trapped underground. She is sure there is a connection with the death of her friend Stephanie. Moreover, there is something wrong with the members of the Delta Delta Tau fraternity. When she enrolls in a course administered by Andrew Carter at Miskatonic University, she discovers he is an old friend of her adopted uncle, Joshua Logan. Ellen and Andrew must join forces to investigate. What is the connection with the Bentham Mine? Can they free a baby Chthonian before its mother arrives and creates chaos?

Darkness Below by Barbara Cottrell was a superbly crafted novel that referenced the mythos of the popular Call of Cthulu game. The writing style was polished and the dream inserts were intriguing. I liked the original character of Ellen and identified with her struggle with identity and recognition. Professor Andrew Carter was cleverly slotted in as the supposed grandson of horror master H.P. Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter. His character combined the perfect amount of egotism, cynicism, and sympathy to create dramatic tension. The character of Connie Blake reflected another name from the golden age of weird fiction. This character seemed benign as he offered explanations, but became disquieting and creepy when he hijacked Ellen’s mind. The Nazi connection was a great match for a story whose inspiration harked from the 1930s. I liked the ironic twist that made Ellen the fulfillment of a prophecy. Darkness Below by Barbara Cottrell combined action and character to create a tale that should appeal to fans of tentacled literature.

Sarah Stuart

Darkness Below is even more intriguing than horror stories by well-known authors such as Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Ramsey Campbell. Blond and beautiful, Ellen is a student at the fabled Miskatonic University, Massachusetts. A lonely girl, isolated and virtually friendless, she encounters the charismatic lecturer Dr. Carter, a prodigy from Uncle Joshua’s past. Friend or enemy? As a psychic, Ellen is aware of the danger that is stalking her. Now and then “he” breaks in with a short piece. Deep, down, and dark. “He” is angry with his mother for leaving him with her magic whistle and the force within it. How does “he” impact Ellen? Did he survive an explosion in 1945 and is he still alive? This paranormal tale by Barbara Cottrell will draw you in and perhaps not let you go.

Darkness Below is a compelling story from the first page. I found my curiosity instantly aroused and it never diminished. There is a riveting reality to Ellen and her life, which in retrospect is impossible. References to normality contrast with doubt about the existence of a university dedicated to the study of the supernatural in its most gruesome forms. Ellen undertakes assignments, like arguing why Hades chose Persephone as his bride – a familiar Greek myth. Descriptions of even minor characters are brilliant: “The librarians, severe, sallow-faced men dressed like funeral directors, exhibited an unhealthy attachment to their books.” Five stars are insufficient to show my admiration of this work by Barbara Cottrell.

J. Treacy Cole

In Darkness Below, by Barbara Cottrell, Ellen Logan is a junior at the infamous Miskatonic University in the city of Arkham. I imagined Miskatonic to be a sort of higher education Hogwarts. The story grabs the reader from page one. Ellen, who is psychic, is a witness to a suicide. As the semester progresses, a fraternity house is destroyed, a friend steals an ancient book and then disappears, and another student pulls a gun on her--all these events seem to be connected to a dark and disturbing presence lurking under the earth.

Would-be readers, it may help you to know that I rarely find a book that I am driven to finish. In my youth I read voraciously, and then at some point I lost my “reading mojo.” This book has given it back to me and I think it's due to the author’s commitment to character development. This is much more than a magical adventure story with elements of horror. It asks some big questions along the way. One of the most concerning themes was misogyny. Ellen has the terrible realization that even some of the “good guys” fantasize about raping women for revenge when hurt or threatened. I don’t want to think this is true, but the statistical reality of violent and sex crimes against women throughout history support the theme. Another element that had me unsettled is the sense that with all the men revolving around Ellen, she had no safe, soft, place to land–she wasn’t sure she could trust any of them–even the uncle who raised her. Perhaps that’s a result of trauma she suffered as a young teen, or perhaps it’s a comment on reality that we can’t ever truly know what is happening in the hearts and minds of others. Ellen herself as a character is well-rounded. She’s quick to anger and often does not act in her best interests. That is where we as readers can recognize her youth; other times she has such a wealth of knowledge and experience that she seems much older. I don’t consider this a flaw, though, as I have known many young, intelligent people who seem to be old souls who gather knowledge at lightning speed.

I highly recommend this novel if you enjoy a fast-paced adventure with strong character development. And the promise of more novels to come is exciting!