Book review: Filth Kiss, by C. J. Lines

April 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Book reviews 

filth_kisscover_front_copyC.J. Lines returns us to those gloriously gory days of the 1980s in tone and in setting with his debut novel, Filth Kiss, via the independent Hadesgate Publications.

A brutal 190 page-turner readable in a couple of hours, Lines wastes no time immersing the reader in the lives of  his main characters, the Davies brothers. Jeff is coming to terms with the news that his father, Guy, has died. Taking time off from his job in London he mulls over the realisation that he never had much to do with his father whilst he was growing up, and neither did his brother Peter, always the younger, quieter of the two.

Peter is a convicted paedophile, (for a relatively minor offence, he insists), and his relationship with Jeff and his sister Jennifer has deteriorated completely. Out of prison on parole with a job in a fish and chip shop, Peter is trying to rebuild his life and resist urges which have never truly gone away. The scene is set for the brothers’ return for their father’s funeral, and an uneasy reunion with Jennifer who still lives in the Gloucestershire village of Broadoak where they grew up.

Not all is as it seems with the Davies family, and the villagers of Broadoak. The brothers learn that Guy Davies drowned in the River Severn and was with a young girl from the village who has not been seen since that night. A disenchanted schoolgirl, Sarah Hobson, finds a severed hand on the banks of the Severn, and in a morose moment, removes a strange ring, detailed with two intertwined serpents, from one of the frozen fingers.

Filth Kiss could stand upon uneasy ground with elements and characters of its plot as Peter and Sarah move closer together, much of it at the youngster’s insistence. But Lines shows us a convincing portrayal of a paedophile as a weak-willed and somewhat desperate individual, and crucially, one that makes no excuses for himself or his actions. He knows what he feels is wrong. This must be one of the most difficult tasks a writer could set themselves, but I think Lines succeeds as the reader is left feeling sympathetic towards both parties in different ways, and with a full appreciation of the motivations involved.

The loss of their father is relatively simple to handle compared with the  struggle to manage their relationships with each other and the attitude of the locals towards Peter, an attitude which Jennifer is only too happy to encourage. The 1980s Broadoak is brilliantly evoked through the eyes of its bored, disenfranchised youth, naturally railing against the mundanity of everyday village life, the pottering of the elderly, the lack of diversity of its shops, and the apparent refusal to adopt change that the Davies brothers witness on their return, justifying their distate for the place. But behind this rather stereotypical front of closeted rural calm is a system of heirarchy designed to feed the darkness that lurks within all of us for a higher and utterly Devilish end.

In Broadoak the villagers keep one eye on their post, for when a black envelope containing a tulip pops through your letterbox the time is near for the next sacrifice. In the hills above the village, on Symonds Yat there is a sacred place where something is growing… Think Hot Fuzz without the humour, swirling in a bowl of virgin’s blood, mixed with Dennis Wheatley’s black magic rituals, the disquiet of youth and several scenes of graphic, very imaginative demonic sex, and you have Filth Kiss.

First released in 2007, Filth Kiss has seen a reprinting since that date, proving that there is an appetite for a solid and thrilling story with horrific content from readers. Possibly a crucial factor in the book’s endurance has been its availability throughout Waterstones stores, and a round of applause should go to them for taking the chance on the title and supporting an independent publisher’s endeavours. More of this open-minded approach from booksellers when stocking the shelves would be welcome.

Highly recommended for fans of Shaun Hutson, Guy N. Smith, Richard Kelly, Rex Miller (remember him anyone?) and Clive Barker’s hypnotically and viscerally sexy Books of Blood volumes, C.J. LinesFilth Kiss is a little gift of dark perverse power.

And keep a careful eye on your post…