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I live in Bristol UK horror dark fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Currently reading

Travelling in a Strange Land
David Park
Progress: 17 %
Dark Water
Robert Bryndza
Progress: 42 %
Professional Reader 50 Book Reviews 80% Reviews Published

Horror with a touch of class

Night Things - John Michael Talbot

Lauren Montgomery, her son Garrett and her "I love myself so much" rock star husband Stephen Ransom have rented a large palatial mansion in the Adirondacks in North Eastern New York. It soon becomes apparent that something terrible is going to happen in "Lake House" which has a reputation for murder and bloodshed. Garrett becomes attuned to the sounds and ghostly apparitions that frequent the house, Lauren becomes more and more concerned about the welfare of herself and her son, and the lovely Stephen with "his mane of dark ringlets" portrays a misogynistic attitude towards women only ever really concerned for his own selfish wellbeing...."we're playing in the big leagues here. You got to do it to them before they do it to you."......

Some beautifully strong characters make Night Things a joy to read and in particular I was drawn to the evil and aptly named Elton Fugate who has some very strange habits as young Garret learns when he observes him from a secret location....."For it was not a space being, or even something living, that Fugate was choking, but some sort of grotesque doll, or manikin of a woman....it was completely rigid and appeared to be constructed out of vinyl and inflated like a beach ball. It was also naked and possessed a frowsy and garishly made-up face and had scruffy patches of lurid yellow hair on both its head and its pubic area."..... Lake House is a place where evil is enticed in and soon it will become the focus of a battle between what is good and what is bad...."There were things that were evil in the universe, unfathomably evil. And there were things that were good".... The final Epilogue is like a story within a story, where Stephen will come to regret giving a lift to a rather petite blond woman called June with...."her sagging, middle-aged body gleaming in the moonlight"...and her friend Arnie.

Many thanks to the good people at Valancourt Books for sending me a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. The wonderful Valancourt Books are an independent small press who specialize in the rediscovery of rare, neglected and out of print fiction.

Complicated and very confusing

The Dead Ex - Jane Corry, Penguin Books

Last year I read and really enjoyed Blood Sisters by Jane Corry, and I particularly loved the rather claustrophobic, somewhat enclosed first person telling of the story. In particular the character of Kitty living in care, unable to communicate but the reader is privileged in that he has total access to the mind and thoughts of the hapless Kitty. Unfortunately The Dead Ex comes nowhere near to the thrill read that Blood Sisters was. It is the same type of first person storytelling from the point of view of a number of characters and again that presents as an effective and good method of relaying events. However if the story has little merit, then everything falls apart, in a confusing and dreary manner.

Vicki Goudman suffers with epilepsy and husband Daniel, rather than support her, decides to abandon her for his mistress the alluring, and seductive Tanya. When the police inform Vicki that husband Daniel is missing, possibly dead, she finds her world turned upside down when she realizes that she is the number one suspect. Vicki needs to prove her innocence but how is this possible as the drugs she is prescribed for her epilepsy appear to cause frequent and constant memory loss. The telling of this story is utterly confusing as we travel back and forward from the present to 2006/07 meeting Scarlet and Helen Evans. Vicki Goudman was a prison governor, then in inmate, ex husband Daniel has more than an interest in Tanya, Scarlet had an unhealthy relationship with a Mr Walters, Scarlet's mum Zelda is in prison, who is Jackie? Is Scarlett really Scarlet or Helen? does Zelda have an agenda from her prison cell?, is Daniel really David? what is the importance of Patrick? I could go on but I was just as confused as you are (dear reader of my review) trying to analyse and decipher just what the hell is happening!!. If a story becomes confused, complicated, and possibly losing the plot, then it is certainly difficult to retain the attention and support of the reader. I always endeavour to complete a book before offering an opinion but The Dead Ex really tested my stay ability! Many thanks to netgalley in sending me a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.....An extremely disappointing read, a confusing and complicated plot and a somewhat preposterous conclusion.

Meeting the great Chris Carter

chrisandtrev

What a great day on Tuesday time to meet one great crime author Chris Carter. It was fantastic to learn about his writing style and the fact that he has never been an avid reader but his career to date and especially his work as a criminal psychologist has certainly provided him with lots of crime writing material. The early part of the book signing involved Chris answering questions from a co presenter before turning the event over to the floor. I did wonder and indeed asked him was there not a little bit of Chris Carter in the character of Carlos Garcia as it turns out both were born in Sao Paulo Brazil and both have long and flowing locks which they like to keep tied back with a hair band! I was also curious as to who he thought should play Robert Hunter when the inevitable movie deal is offered. The casting is so important ( just look at Titus Welliver's brilliant interpretation of Harry Bosch) which probably comes down to, in the case of Bosch, the writer Michael Connelly being involved very closely in the production

 

Enjoyable first novel

The Murder List: An utterly gripping crime thriller with edge-of-your-seat suspense (Detective Zac Boateng Book 1) - Chris Merritt

The beginning of "The Murder List" is particularly poignant. Detective Zac Boateng is enjoying an early morning run with his daughter Amelia. At some point during the exercise he loses sight of Amelia and is shocked when a number of gun shots are clearly heard. The unthinkable has happened his beautiful Amelia is now lying before him fatally wounded finally succumbing to the gunshots and dying in the arms of her father.

 

We fast forward 5 years and Detective Boateng together with work colleagues Nasim Malik, Pat Connelly and DS Kat Jones is called to the scene of a violent crime The location is a pawnbrokers shop where the owner Ivor Harris has been bludgeoned with an axe left embedded in his skull. What follows is a detailed, intricate, tangled story that will test the ability and patience of Zac to the limit. Whilst attempting to discover and apprehend the pawn shop killer there appears to be a trail going all the way back to that fateful day in 2012 and Amelia's death. As evidence mounts, a culprit is identified who must not only contend with the wrath of Zachariah Boateng but it in addition a lone sniper, ex military who has been hired to execute him for reasons soon made clear.

 

Although the plot of this book is good it is the character and flaws of Boateng that set The Murder List above the average thriller. He is consumed by his inability to protect Amelia and is tortured each and every day that he did or could not save her.."Never give up. You owe it to that person you loved. To the memory you still love, that no one can take away"... So will the ending of this fast paced thriller give our lone detective some inner peace and the courage to be a good father to his son Kofi and wife Etta? You dear reader of my review will have to discover that for yourself but rest assured the journey will be exciting full of doubt and yes some hope....Many thanks to the good people of netgalley and the publisher Bookouture for a gratis copy of this excellent thriller in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Beware The Babysitter

The Babysitter: A gripping psychological thriller with edge of your seat suspense - Sheryl Browne

Detective Inspector Mark Cain is married to Melissa and they have two wonderful children Poppy and Evie. Mark is haunted by a house fire that occurred sometime in the distant past, a vision of a child overcome by smoke inhalation never leaves him. The family become acquainted with a neighbour Jade when her property is destroyed by fire (there seems to be a theme developing here!) Mark and Mel are very impressed by the kindness and warmth that radiates from Jade who in turn develops a strong bond with the two children Poppy and Evie. They are delighted not only to offer Jade a safe home to live in but also employ her services as a babysitter for the two young girls. The parents compliment themselves to what on the surface seems an excellent decision as it allows Mark the time to concentrate on finding a missing child, Daisy Evans, and Melissa freedom to indulge her passion of sculpturing.

 

It is at this point in the story that the fortunes of the Cain family disintegrate alarmingly. and in particular the mental health of Mel gives great reason for concern. There are questions over her ability to remain as a respected and caring mother. Thank goodness that the ever smiling, helpful Jade is able to step into the role as a surrogate mum. However is this supposedly wonderful young lady as helpful as the personality she projects? Is she linked in any way to the disappearance of Daisy? What is the reason behind her fascination with Mark? Is there any connection between her arrival and the rapid mental deterioration of Melissa Cain?

 

What an enjoyable fun read with a beautiful manipulative villain. The author and the reader have a bond, they know who is responsible for the misfortune within the Cain family, yet both are powerless and unable to help. They can only stand in the sidelines and watch in horror as Mark Cain stumbles from one crisis to another. Will the responsible and caring father be successful using his cunning and detective skills to win back his family, save the lost Daisy and by so doing find the perpetrator before it is too late?  Significantly The Babysitter also explores themes of loss (baby Jacob, Mark and Melissa's first child, died at only 6 months old) the power of the family unit, sexual abuse and how the fallout from such abuse can affect many people. Many thanks to netgalley and the publisher bookouture for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Welcome back Detective Robert Hunter

Gallery of the Dead - Chris Carter

I've just finished this book. I feel numb as if I've just stepped off the biggest roller coaster in the world! (Kingda-Ka, Jackson New Jersey) There are crime thrillers abundant who showcase various detectives in a book series, and what this means for the reader is that the lead detective will always survive to fight another day in another novel. I'm giving nothing away by stating that Gallery of the Dead is no different in that respect. Detective Robert Hunter is with us from page one and is still very much alive at page 500 ready for book 10 in the series. What however is important is how the author fills the gaps between first page and the end, and how he holds our attention, how he introduces those unexpected twists as yet another psychotic genius commences a killing rampage. I can tell you that I have rarely read a book so gripping so graphic in its descriptions that I am literally shaking from adrenaline and excitement so keen am I to sing praises for one of the greatest thriller writers out there.....there I've said it so what is this book about I hear you shout with anticipation.......

 

Detective Robert Hunter works for the Robbery Homicide Division and in particular the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit (UVCU) based in LA, where together with his partner Detective Carlos Garcia is tasked with solving those cases where extreme forms of torture and brutality have been used. Robert is unique in the world of fiction detectives; a very high IQ, psychology graduate from Stanford and the author of a book now mandatory reading for the FBI's National Centre for the analysis of violent crime. He is a loner, an overactive brain that causes him to suffer recurring bouts of insomnia. but also a connoisseur of single malt Scotch whisky. The first body discovered is that of model Linda Parker "posed" in a room where the low temperature has kept away the inevitable blowflies but this does not stop the author graphically explaining the damage this  Calliphoridae insect can cause...."They would have concentrated their efforts in the mouth, the nose, the eyes and any open wounds. In the case of a skinned body, the entire body became an open wound and therefore a breeding ground for blowflies. In just a few hours there would have been as many as half a million eggs laid all over the corpse. Those eggs would have hatched within twenty-four hours and in a single day, the maggots that those eggs produced would have reduced a full grown body to half size.".......

 

The hands and feet have been separated from Linda Carter's body, the skin removed apart from a small patch at the rear where a series of marks and lines have been carved into the skin. Hunter becomes aware of the significance of this "signature" and as the body count escalates with more strange markings identified the detectives together with the assistance of the FBI work tirelessly in an attempt to make a connection between the bodies and thus hopefully identify the killer. The victims are displayed in a thought-out creative manner, Is the perpetrator trying to show the world how clever an "artist" he is or has he an underlying agenda? The answer when revealed demonstrates the author's understanding of the psychotic mind and reflects his training as a criminal psychologist.

 

As I read this book I was totally at the mercy of some very clever writing. I did not know where the adventure would take me, I was unable to second guess or spot the red herrings, all I knew was that a "Gallery of the Dead"  was being created by a madman who appeared to have a higher intelligence than both the combined power of the Robbery Homicide division and the FBI. As I raced towards the conclusion I felt sure I would be able to anticipate the final outcome but was left gasping when a totally unexpected event occurred which threw into doubt everything I had read before......

 

So there it is dear reader of my review an outstanding novel that leaves me wondering just how Chris Carter can improve? I leave you however with a thought; Carlos Garcia is Brazilian.."Everyone likes Brazilian people because we can samba."... he also likes to wear his long hair "pulled back into a tight ponytail"....do you notice some similarities between him and a certain author of psycho thrillers? I leave that thought with you..... My thanks to the good people at Simon& Schuster for this "gratis" copy in exchange for and honest review, and that is what I have written. Highly, highly Recommended.

One ballsy Detective!

The Late Show - Michael Connelly

For fans of Harry Bosch it cannot have escaped your notice that our intrepid cop is of an age where he should be thinking of retirement (by my estimate he is mid to late 60's) The question that all fans of Michael Connelly are keen to ascertain is who will replace him? who can possibly step into the shoes of this irascible lovable wily old coyote? So with a little trepidation and much nervous excitement I felt compelled to read and yes judge The Late Show which introduces Detective Renee Ballard who works the night shift affectionately known as the late show. Working these unsociable hours is a punishment for a false accusation she supposedly made against her senior officer Lieutenant Olivas, namely a sexual advance.

 

She is investigating two cases; the attempted  murder of Ramona Ramone a victim with gender id issues and a number of homicides at the Dancers night club. As always with crime stories of this type it is the politics of the job and in particular the role of a female detective within what many would judge as primarily a male environment. There is no better author than Michael Connelly to explore this issue and by doing so he not only creates a superlative story but gives the reader a real glimpse into the minds of those who patrol the dangerous streets of downtown LA. Ballard as you would expect is a ballsy operator originally from Hawaii where her father instilled into her a strong work ethic but more importantly taught her the skills and how to master working a paddle board. Whenever life and work becomes too hard and emotional she rides the waves at Venice beach always accompanied by her faithful dog Lola. Tragically her father died as a result of the sport he loved and her mum Makani abandoned her until a year later when her grandmother Tutu took custody of her. In this first novel, which is hopefully the start of a new series, Connelly expertly unfolds Renee Ballard before us introducing someone certainly equal to that old protagonist Harry Bosch.

 

Suffice to say the two investigations have a successful outcome and in the case of the Dances night club the author cunningly and expertly sends the reader in a totally false direction before revealing the real killer. No matter how good the plot the real test of a good book is if the author can create the smell, the feel and the emotion within the characters and their interaction with their environment (in this case LA)......."I'm talking about the darkness within. You have a job Detective, that takes you into the bleaker side of the human soul. To me it's like the laws of physics-for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. If you go into the darkness, the darkness goes into you. You then have to decide what to do with it. How to keep yourself safe from it. How to keep it from hallowing you out.".....

 

So could we possibly be seeing the birth of a great new female detective with lots of attitude? you betcha, move over HB, Renee Ballard is on the case. Highly Recommended

Simply wonderful

The Comeback by Bernard Taylor (2016-10-06) - Bernard Taylor

Bernard Taylor is a wonderful author. His delicate and articulate style creates a setting that deceitfully snares an unsuspecting reader and lulls him into a false sense of security.

Rosemary Paul is a fading star, with an adoring public, long forgotten. She lives out her remaining years as a recluse in New York ably supported by her good friend and companion Carrie Markham. A limited record release of her back catalogue has resulted in a small resurgence of the singer's popularity. Rejuvenated and aided by some close theatrical friends she comes to believe that the unthinkable might now be possible, namely a return to performing in front of her fans. London has been chosen as the venue for this momentous occasion. With financial support guaranteed and the new slim remodeled star about to be unveiled, it seems that nothing can stop the expected rebirth of an iconic legend....

 

I was ambushed and totally astonished not once but twice by the direction this story took in the closing chapters. To reveal anymore dear reader would destroy the delights and twists that remain to be discovered by you. The black and white cover for The Comeback reflected a very "noir" and old Hollywood feel to the novel. The character of Rosemary reminds me so much of such faded legends as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and in particular their casting in that classic 1962 movie "Whatever happened to Baby Jane" Finally the scene is set and the world is about to meet and greet the once much loved Rosemary Paul. As she prepares to step out on the London stage the tension and anticipation is unbearable......"All at once the curtain no longer separated the stage from the audience. And the lights were changing, getting ready to illuminate her the second she stepped out. And the music, too-now playing the melody for her entrance. She couldn't move. Her hoarse breath loud in her ears, she stood there, rigid, as if her feet were fastened to the floor. Heart pounding, she reached out, her hand groping for support, and felt her fingers touch the wall of the proscenium arch. As best she could she grasped  it and remained there, trembling, fixed to the spot....."

 

A story simply told but utterly absorbing in its unveiling, a masterpiece of the understated and highly recommended.

Cool detective story as always..

The Wanted (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike) - Robert Crais

If you internet search Robert Crais it is interesting to note that he was greatly influenced by the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. It you add this piece of information to the fact that he was a writer for some early 80's made for TV series (Hill Street blues, Cagney and Lacy) then you will have an understanding of the writing style of this author.  

I thoroughly enjoyed "The Wanted". Elvis Cole is helping out an old friend Devon, it would appear that her son has been involved in a series of robberies and things become very serious when Devon discovers a very rare and valuable Rolex watch in her son's bedroom. He calls in his associate and partner Joe Pike (tattoos and the permanent wearing of shades!) and together both must act quickly to safeguard Tyson and his comrade in arms a young immature girl called Amber. Elvis Cole is not your ordinary detective, rather than drink (which seems to be the flaw of most cops) he likes to cook.."I turned up a package of frozen peas, two stalks of asparagus, and a lemon. Inspired. I filled a pot with water threw in some salt, and kicked op the heat. "....

 

Two assassins have been hired to find a stolen laptop presumably removed by the thieves Tyson and Amber,  containing information that might incriminate their client, The race is on for Elvis Cole aided by his ever present sidekick Joe Pike to find the two remaining teenage burglars  and try to explain to them the error of their ways, This is a fast stripped down detective story and in some ways feels a bit like a script made for TV, nevertheless very enjoyable. Sometimes all you want when reading a book is an easy to follow storyline and neat very readable prose which is certainly in abundance here..."schooling like orchestral sharks at a blood-drunk feast."....."men with dusty boots and women with rough hands."...."as out of place on the lovely street as a fly in a glass of juice."...

 

As always Robert Crais delivers in his own recognizable style making for a very enjoyable and fast read. Many thanks to the food people of netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written

History and horror smoothly blended

The Hunger - Alma Katsu

The hardcover of this book, due for release in early march, shows a horse drawn wagon heading out into uncharted territory. This represented the pioneering spirit of American settlers heading west for California who felt confident in the knowledge that they were destined to occupy this territory irrespective of the affect their actions might have on the indigenous native American tribes who already populated these regions. The Hunger recalls one particular group of travellers historically referred to as the "Donner Party", led by Jacob and George Donner, who in the spring of 1846 departed Springfield Illinois on a perilous 2500 mile journey their intended destination the Mexican province of alta California. Poor planning, bad decision and snowstorms caused a number of the original pioneers to become trapped in the mountains during the severe winter of 1846. When food ran out it was said that they resorted to cannibalism; the unthinkable had happened in order to survive.

 

Alma Katsu expertly uses the harsh unforgiving environment and that deep rooted human weakness, fear of darkness and the unknown, to instil in the travellers a paranoia that something evil is out there stalking them....."He saw teeth sharpened like iron nails, and too many of them, far too many-a long slick of throat, like a dark tunnel, and that horrible tongue slapping like a blind animal feeling for it prey."...Some excellent characterization really made the story come alive as long held dark secrets gradually emerged. James Reed owner of a large furniture business in Springfield, married to an older woman, yet tortured inwardly by personal feelings, dark thoughts and undisclosed encounters. Charles Stanton, the quiet anti-hero whom Mary Graves...."was giddily, stupidly, happily in love.".....Tamsen Donner, young bride to George Donner, her beauty and wayward ways causing discern and rumour amongst the gradually starving disillusioned pioneers. As bad weather, low rations, and poor decisions prevailed the.... "creatures that fed on human flesh".....selected and noisily consumed the weak and innocent.

 

What I loved about this novel was the seamless blending of historical facts with a modern horror theme, a wolf like predator with an unquenchable longing for human flesh. As a British reader I must confess to my ignorance of the Donner Party and was pleased that the author included an "historical note" which greatly added to my enjoyment of the overall story. There were many fine observations in this ill fated journey non better than a quote at the conclusion of chapter 21....."Then the Lord must be mightily displeased with you, because he has led you into the valley of death. Make peace with your Lord before it is too late, because the hungry ones are coming for you.".... Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for this gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. Recommended.

A stylish crime story

A Cold Cold Heart - John Nicholl

Meet the suave and debonair Charles Turner. A gentleman and solicitor of impeccable manners who has a fondness for pretty young ladies. He wines them, he dines them, he surrounds them with his wealth and musical taste and introduces them to his large detached residence in the country. There is just one problem with Mr C he is partial to erotic asphyxiation, enjoys the thrill of strangulation, and has a fixation with his dear departed mother her elegant party dresses and the smell of her lavender perfume. DI Gravel is having a bad day with a serial killer on the loose, the body count mounting, and his only daughter Emily about to step into the jaws of a crocodile when she accepts a job at a respectable local firm of solicitors Harrison and Turner.

 

I really enjoyed this book and unusual in the fact that the reader knows very quickly who the killer is. There are some well defined characters namely DI Gravel and his unhealthy life choices, his very able assistant Detective Sergeant Laura Kesey and a dangerous predator who will stop at nothing to feed his depraved sexual lust. Many thanks to netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. I will certainly be reading more by John Nicholl as I enjoy his witty and fast flowing prose.

The horror lovers essential reference book

Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction - Grady Hendrix

A wonderful book that every horror lover should own. Paperbacks from Hell looks at the publishing of the horror paperback mainly concerned with the period mid 70's to mid 80's What is noticeable and striking about this book genre is the colourful covers and beautiful art work produced by famous illustrators at that time. Early examples of many of these horror books are now so scarce that they demand a very high price for the privilege of owning. This is a book that is made for rereading, an essential catalogue to be read once carefully, and then kept close at hand for use as a handy reference tool. Highly Recommended.

Eloquent and disturbing

Elizabeth: A Novel of the Unnatural - Jonathan Janz, Ken Greenhall, Jessica Hamilton

Elizabeth Cuttner is the narrator in this somewhat disturbing and twisted tale of a 14 year old who has a story to tell. Through a mirror in her room she is influenced by Frances a long dead relative and participant in the medieval practice of witchcraft. This unhealthy partnership unveils a side of Elizabeth that is totally at odds with the quietly spoken and articulate young lady presented to the reader. As the novel unfolds we learn of the tragic death of her parents, the disappearance of her grandmother, and the somewhat unhealthy relationship she enjoys with her uncle James. What is so striking about the author's narrative is the way he is able to capture and portray Elizabeth who although appears innocent is often controlling and manipulative in  a very precise and distasteful way.

 

The writing of Ken Greenhall is sublime; this is horror that is quietly spoken leaving acts of unpleasantness to the creative mind of the reader...."We pretended that our appetites could be satisfied with toast and cereal."......"He was the only person I knew who didn't bathe very often. I admired him."....."Her hands glittered with oil, and she was carefully lining up the little headless bodies on dark bread. She raised a finger to her mouth and slowly licked it."...."I think it was his discomfort with me that first made me aware of the power that comes with womanhood."...."what did he think when I walked at this side and took his arm so that I could brush it against my breast.".....

 

The works of Ken Greenhall have been brought alive once again under the guidance of the wonderful Valancourt books who are helping us rediscover rare, neglected and out of print fiction. Many thanks to them for sending me this gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written. At times both shocking and eloquent Elizabeth is a wonderful and entertaining novel.

Original and thought provoking

Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel - Ahmed Saadawi

What drew me to this novel was the intriguing title. When I think of Frankenstein I am immediately drawn to the depiction of this "monster" in the writing of Mary Shelley. Was this grotesque creature someone who attracted our sympathy or loathing; the answer is probably both. Frankenstein in Baghdad gives a modern twist to the story taking place in a war ravaged community. Hadi is a scavenger who makes a living by collecting junk and resalable items from the US occupied streets of Bagdad. This rather oddball figure also acquires human body parts and by stitching them together creates his own freak referred to as Whatsitsname, who has also inherited the soul of Hasib Mohamed Jaafar a dead security guard at the Novotel Hotel..."Because I'm made up of body parts of people from diverse backgrounds-ethnicities, tribes, races and social classes.".....The purpose of this creation and the heart of "Frankenstein in Baghdad" is to showcase war as a futile exercise where the greed and ambition of a few adds to the misery, desolation and despair of the masses..."to bring about justice in this world which has been totally ravaged by greed, ambition, megalomania, and insatiable bloodlust."

 

The novel is told through the eyes of a number of Baghdad residents in particular Elishva an elderly widow, in mourning for her son Daniel, who believes that Whatsitsname is his reincarnation, Mahmoud al-Sawadi a young ambitious journalist and Brigadier Majid head of the Tracking and Pursuit Department. It is a story that brought alive the smells and constant danger of a city and community at war and the inevitable casualties and heartache that an innocent population must inevitably pay. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

A rediscovered, beautifully written, horror classic

Hell Hound - Grady Hendrix, Ken Greenhall, Jessica Hamilton

Ken? Ken who? I thought, as I observed and read about this "brought back to print" horror edition from the amazingly brilliant Valancourt books. Reading the preamble to Hell Hound  (rather alarmingly a google search states that Ken Greenhall was born in Detroit in 1928 and is now aged 89. This is inaccurate as he died in 2014 or perhaps this being a horror publication there is a hidden message here.......) Hell Hound was published in 1977 and formed a very limited output by the said author over the next 11 years. At a time when horror paperbacks where beginning to assert and influence an ever increasing reader base Greenhall could find no publisher willing to support him in his venture until a long forgotten Zebra Books produced a limited run with a cheap and nasty front cover (when horror books were often judged by their outlandish, intricate and colourful covers)

 

HH is a neat, short, original story of a small community seen through the eyes of a number of residents in particular "Baxter" a bull terrier.." a head like a hatchet. Malevolent blue eyes, too small and misplaced."... with some rather worrying antisocial behaviours. When we first encounter him he is the much loved pet of the unassuming Mrs Eileen Prescott. Baxter soon becomes tired of this relationship as "there is never laughter in this house, only the dull sounds of age and weakness."....The sweet little old lady meets an untimely death following a close encounter with a staircase and the friendly pressure of a loving bull terrier.... Nancy and John a young modern couple are "gifted" Baxter whose demeanour and character changes when it is announced that Nancy is pregnant. Naturally Baxter is worried that the relationship with his new owner will be dramatically altered when a child is born and endeavours to recapture their affections by what he sees as a little act of kindness!.....Jason and Sara Fine are worried about their son Carl, his unpredictable sometimes withdrawn nature, and his obsession with Nazi Germany. Would the companionship of a dog help Carl feel more comfortable and accepting of his adolescence?

 

This is a highly original and understated publication that really should have been showcased many many years ago. It is criminal to think that such a neatly observed, satirical work of outstanding quality lay silent before this new edition was finally announced. Grady Hendrix, in his introduction, pays a fitting tribute to  the author Ken Greenhall..."He didn't aim to terrify, he wanted to undermine your sense of comfort. It's a harder trick , but it last longer.".... So here in the in writing of a newly rediscovered, and hopefully not to be forgotten  author are some delightful observations..."And never let a dog lick you. A dog uses its tongue as toilet paper."......"Then I lie on the sofa and think of the couple. I wait to hear the faint, peculiar sounds they make in the darkness."....."he deposited on the intricately patterned old rug a small rivulet of urine."......"They're like snails, he thought. They need the shells of their houses and automobiles. Not so much for shelter as for reassurance."....."Most humans have few virtues. But, of course, they have many disadvantages to overcome. Their peculiar bodies, for example. Tall creatures that walk on two legs must be in a constant state of anxiety."...

 

This exceptional piece of gentle, unassuming horror has only been made possible due to the great work of Valancourt Books, whose mission is quite simply to discover and publish rare neglected and out of print fiction. Many thanks to them for sending me a copy of Hell Hound in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written. Highly Recommended.

How very disappointing

Infestation - William Meikle

This is probably one of the worst novellas that I have had the displeasure to read in a very long time. A gun hoe group lead by Capt John Banks is sent to investigate the plight of a Russian ship in Canadian Waters (think Predator with Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers) There they encounter "isopods" (a type of large blue glowing giant cannibalistic turtle, or as the author prefers carnivorous bottom feeders!) which have emerged from the ocean after some heavy drilling by the said Russian ship. Throw into this mix an alluring (and possibly Russian spy) the sultry Svetlanova and add in the equivalent of Jim Taggart (Scottish detective) in the form of "Mac" with a deep Glaswegian accent...."Listen to the lass, Cap, Mac said weakly..She kens what she's on about."..... then you have a story that is truly abysmal.

 

This novella pays homage and tries to emulate the work of such well known horror writers as James Herbert (The Rats an outstanding fun story of a community plagued by blood thirsty mutant vermin) or indeed anything by Guy N Smith ( my own particular favourites being The Origin of the Crabs and Spawn of the Slime Beast) Infestation is a formulaic, clichéd story, told badly, that really does not deserve to be in print, and I had the misfortune to purchase for £3. Best avoided...........