I can’t say The Dead Path didn’t get its hooks into me: I finished the final hundred pages at a single sitting, anxious for one of its characters, in particular, to escape the morass. There are some clever aspects to how it works an old religion into a modern tale; Irwin’ prose is reliably serviceable and occasionally better than that.
But the aspects that annoyed me outweighed those that intrigued me. Even as worry for a character quickened my pulse, I felt manipulated by the specifics of the threat. The main protagonist, Nicholas Close, repeatedly makes choices of such tooth-gnashing stupidity that it was difficult to maintain sympathy for him. The reader learns early on that Close sees ghosts. People-who-see-the-dead is such a well-explored device that there are “I see dead pixels” t-shirts parodying it; Irwin approaches it with a heavy-handed thoroughness, as if it were so fresh that it demanded a great deal of exposition.
The recurring motif of large quantities of large spiders at first just seemed lazy — an automatic gross-out for many people, with no subtlety — but eventually I got desensitized to it. Meanwhile, the repeated juxtaposition of arachnoid imagery with aged female sexuality suggests that they’re intended to be viewed as parallel scopes of horror, which I find unpleasantly close to misogyny.
needs more demons? well, not literally