Book review: The Whisperers, by John Connolly

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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whisperersCharlie Parker’s back in his ninth outing, and his own situation is in some sort of order for once. His personal life appears to have reached a plateau of consistency; the ghosts and memories of his past are still there, but muted with time after the devastating revelatory events of The Lovers. Importantly, he’s also got his Private Investigator license back, and it doesn’t take long for him to become embroiled in a case and a cast of characters who, in their own indirect ways, help guide him towards the destiny that awaits him in a book (hopefully) way down the line.

The Whisperers commences with a brilliantly written and cleverly deceptive chapter set in Baghdad’s Iraq Museum in 2003, wherein looters remove some ancient treasures under the cover of a gun battle between US forces and the Fedayeen. Among the items taken is a box, and in that box is another box, and within that box something ancient waits…

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Book review:Apartment 16, by Adam Nevill

March 18, 2010 by · 3 Comments
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Apartment 16With the exception of a handful of short stories consistently high in quality and spookiness, Adam Nevill’s singular voice has been quiet in the six years since the publication of his debut novel Banquet for the Damned, which was released as a collectable slipcased hardback by PS Publishing, and more recently in paperback format through the lamentably short-lived Virgin Books horror line which Nevill helmed.

Those years of whispering silence have been fruitful as his second novel, Apartment 16 (plus a third, in-progress), have been picked up by publishing giant Pan MacMillan – an occurrence that (hopefully) has all sorts of positive implications for the genre in this country. A BIG UK publisher buying titles by a UK author? Not something that’s happened since, well, since the days of Clive Barker, and before him, Ramsey Campbell and James Herbert (synchronistically Nevill’s stablemate in horror at Pan MacMillan). From that ‘golden age’ and all that’s gone between (most of it not so nice if you’re a UK-based horror fan or writer) to now is a big gap in time, so whether you like it or not, these facts make Apartment 16 an important novel, and Adam Nevill an important writer who, I’m happy to say, establishes his status amongst today’s outstanding creators of speculative horror with Apartment 16.

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Book review: Tide of Souls, by Simon Bestwick

August 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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tideofsoulsSeeing this on the shelves was a joy to behold, not only because it’s the latest in Abaddon’s Tomes of the Dead imprint, (the previous tome I read, Al Ewing’s I, Zombie was a successful if somewhat quirky amalgam of sf (alien invasion), noir crime (private investigator), horror (bucket loads of the gory stuff) and the undead (the private investigator)), but also because Simon Bestwick‘s name adorned the rather day-glo cover that rather cheapens this powerful and decidedly different take on the zombie-trope.

To this reader, Bestwick is amongst the frontrunners of the niche world of the macabre ghost story; his A Hazy Shade of Winter was the first Ash Tree Press title I bought. Not only did his tales of contemporary hauntings, both in the mind and of the land, take a firm hold on me, they also alerted me to that publisher’s high quality catalogue. His latest collection, All the Pictures of the Dark is available from Grayfriar Press – I’m three stories in and have no hesitation recommending it on the strength of those alone. Plus Bestwick’s up for a British Fantasy Award for Best Novella with The Narrows in September at the Fantasycon in Nottingham. Now he’s been given the chance to write a mass-market paperback and the tantalising possibility of him lending his powers of atmospheric suggestion to a full-blown zombie apocalypse was one I could not deny mself, and I applaud Abbadon for adding him to their roster. Read more

Book review: The Lovers, by John Connolly

July 4, 2009 by · 2 Comments
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lovers_uk_150My world stops for a John Connolly book.

Everything else is put aside as the latest developments in the dark world of Charlie  Parker unfold in beautifully plotted suspense. The Lovers is the seventh Charlie Parker book in what can be called a series to date, and the ninth to feature him; so that’s about sixteen waking days of my life given over to this man, and he’s worth every damned minute of my time.

Charlie Parker is a Maine-based private investigator who seems to attract evil. That evil may be a curse that Parker is destined to combat throughout his life, possibly in retribution for things he has done in the past – for Parker is a man who thrives on his own guilt. His veiled background influences everything that occurs in this tight, sad story, and it’s almost impossible to review The Lovers without paying courtesy to preceeding events.

Parker’s a man haunted. Haunted by his wife and child who were brutally murdered by a serial killer known as The Travelling Man. (I am in awe of the serial killers Connolly consistently creates). Haunted by those he’s crossed and those he’s killed, deserving and undeserving. In The Lovers, he’s haunted by his father’s apparent suicide after killing two seemingly innocent teenagers, and the absence of his girlfriend, Rachel and her young daughter, Sam, who have relocated to Vermont, unable to put up with his unsavoury lifestyle and the characters it brings with it. Read more

Book review: The Forest of Hands & Teeth, by Carrie Ryan

July 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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fohandteethWhat makes the zombie apocalypse so alluring to both readers and writers is not necessarily the zombies themselves, but the freedom such a scenario allows for the portrayal of human relationships. Against a gruesome backdrop of flesh eating automatons nothing else matters but the fight for survival. The lengths to which those ‘unfortunate’ enough to survive the initial breakdown of society will go to to ensure that survival, firstly of themselves, and then of the human race, form the structure and events of most of the zombie genre’s novels to date. Sometimes there is a place for hope in these books. And sometimes, albeit very,very rarely, there is time for love. Such an emotion dominates Carrie Ryan‘s wonderful debut novel The Forest of Hands & Teeth.

By setting the events about 15 to 20 years after the outbreak, Ryan is able to introduce an established belief system, a quasi-religion, to the lore of the zombie. Mary lives in an isolated village, surrounded by fences that keep out the hungry undead that wander the landscape. The village is in the middle of a huge forest that seemingly goes on forever. Or at least that is what the children and teenagers are told, for this village is governed by the Sisterhood, a group of elder women who maintain the status-quo through strict tutelage of the Scripture, a regime of hard work and constant vigilance, and a societal set-up that ensures the best possible chance for the continuance of the family line. Read more

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