It is going to be hard for me to review and recommend this third instalment of what has become known as The Concrete Grove “urban horror” trilogy, especially as I generously awarded the previous two books (The Concrete Grove and Silent Voices) 5 stars, but I just did not enjoy this conclusion.
Perhaps I could not take any more of the squalor and urban decay that Gary McMahon describes so vividly “The Concrete Grove was a joyless estate. Apart from the poverty and the criminality that bred here, there was another layer of darkness that could be sensed rather than seen.” Maybe it was the result of reading this book over a bleak and depressing English xmas weekend but if truth be known the simple fact was I found the latter half of the story and the horror described disjointed, confusing, boring and was pleased when my read was complete!
If we remove the horror and look at the human element then the real essence of what the author is trying to express can be seen. The Grove is a place of no hope a place where the inhabitants expect little and receive less. Each day is a challenge of survival in a concrete jungle where the past times of alcohol and physical violence are an everyday occurrence and the hope to find or retain a job is non-existent.
Mark Price is returning to The Grove to research a book and attend a funeral. DI Craig Royle is haunted by his failure to solve the disappearance of “The Gone Away Girls” and the violent death of Simon Ridley, his wife Vanessa has departed due to his depression and alcohol consumption. The sad skeletal figure of Abby sits alone in “The Unicorn” hoping that drink and frequent lovers will help her forget the disappearance of her daughter and the violence of a previous partner Erik Best
Because The Concrete Grove is a place of last resort, no hope and urban decay it is quite understandable why this dystopian landscape is an attraction for evil “He’d never discussed his suspicions in public, but he knew that there was something deeply wrong with the fabric of the Grove. Too many bad things happened; there was a lot of darkness under the skin of the estate. Royle didn’t believe in ghosts, or magic, but he did believe that a place could be wrong. Some places attract darkness, and this was one of them”
The myth of Captain Clickety became colourful local urban legend in an old children’s
skipping song but he was a lot more than that being based on a plague doctor called Terryn Mowbray who lived in the area at the time of the Black Death! Mowbray disappeared in the in the centre of the Grove and it is his return and presence that forms the central uneasiness at the heart of this story. If we add to this mix a flock of hummingbirds, an army of part men part scarecrows (balanced on broom handles!)...perhaps you begin to see my concerns........
It also irritates me to find grammatical errors in a paperback edition that I paid full price on Amazon UK and this comes down to lazy and bad ( or indeed no?) proof reading by publishers. On page 18 towards the bottom it states....”I wish we hadn’t been so stupid. If I knew what was going to happen”.....this should read “I wish we hadn’t been so stupid. If I had known what was going to happen” and on page 21 near the top it says....”He just led the way to the car, walking slowly to enable to other man to keep up.”....should of course read...”He just led the way to the car, walking slowly to enable the other man to keep up.”
Finally, and I may be wrong on this (and if I am someone let me know and I will remove from this review) but....at the start Mark Price has arrived to pay his respect to Harry Rose and meets his brother Victor Rose.....but about 100 pages later Victor Rose suddenly has a name change and is known as Vince Rose (page 139) with no explanation from the author...is this a mistake? am I going mad?
I struggled with this book, the image and scenes of decay were very well described but the storyline lost me midway and failed to recapture and enthral as the earlier parts of the trilogy had done.