Dark Passage is classified as a paranormal thriller and it definitely lives up to the hype; be warned, this novel contains images so chilling that it may keep some readers up at night, squinting into the dark corners of the bedroom, searching for signs of grotesque creatures…
The first chapter is a vague yet poignant look into the past. An unnamed boy is alone in a house that is clearly run by a mother with OCD. The reader learns from snippets of the boy’s thoughts that his mother is a germaphobe who is also abusive. She uses the idea that there is a monster living in the room at the end of the hall to terrify her son into obedience.
The book then switches to the present where the reader meets Tyson Barrett. Tyson has insomnia and has not slept in six months. He is about to join a clinical drug trial for Noxil, which treats PTSD and is supposed to stop his nightmares so that he can sleep for longer than a few minutes at a time. The next chapter switches to another narrator, Dr. Hunter, who has just begun at Sunnybrook Asylum. Dr. Hunter learns that on the 8th floor, which is reserved for patients who have committed violent crimes, lays Brenda Barrett. Brenda has fallen into a coma, but shows unusually high brain activity.
The reader is left wondering how all of these characters relate to each other. When Brenda seems to speak to Dr. Hunter even in her comatose state and when things start appearing from out of Tyson’s dreams, the situation just becomes creepy and the reader cannot help but read on in hopes that the mystery will be solved and the nightmares that are bound to appear will be vanquished.
From the beginning, Hayes captures the reader’s attention with the image of a terrified boy and the terror does not stop there. Page after page, the past is pieced together and the future becomes more and more frightening and uncertain. At times, it may seem as if Hayes is falling back on psychological horror story stereotypes, such as a traumatized boy losing his mind. But this is not the case. Readers will not be disappointed in the ending; the nightmare lasts right up until the very last page.