_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Having had a temporary break from the world of crime fiction, I’ve recently read three supernatural thrillers. Although peppered with recognisable elements of the crime genre, if, like me, the new year has whetted your desire to read something a little different, these may just hit the spot. Perfect reads to while away the long, winter nights, with a nice smattering of scary bejesus moments…

 

bees R. S. PATEMAN- THE PROPHECY OF BEES Moving to Stagcote Manor was meant to be a fresh start for Lindy and her teenage daughter Izzy. A chance at a new life in the country after things went so wrong in London. But for Izzy it is a prison sentence. There’s something about the house that she can’t quite put her finger on. Something strange and unnerving. As Izzy begins to explore the manor and the village beyond its walls, she discovers the locals have a lot of bizarre superstitions and beliefs. Many of them related to the manor . . . and those who live there. When Izzy begins to investigate the history of the estate, her unease deepens to fear as the house’s chilling past finally comes to light…

Yes, this was an all too familiar storyline- family decamp to spooky old country residence, bumps in the night, nightmare visions, creepy yokels who delight in dropping teasers to the bloody history of new residence etc etc -but for all that, I rather enjoyed this ‘Secret of Crickley Hall-esque’ thriller. To be honest, the familiarity made this an easy, although discomforting read, and although Izzy and her mother were intensely annoying in parts, there was much pleasure to be gained from the local rumour-mongers, who were totally spot on with their characterisation, and added a nice chilling frisson to the whole affair. I also loved the bees. The bees are integral to the plot (and to the future of the human race- take note everyone) and I loved the role of these magical flying soothsayers, within the mystery. Read for the bees if nothing else, and Pateman’s assured building of atmosphere and tension throughout.  The ending’s rather good too…

 

evilPHILIP TAFFS- THE EVIL INSIDE:  On 31 December 1999, Australian advertising creative Guy Russell arrives in New York along with his fragile wife and their young son. A painful tragedy has led them to swap Melbourne for Manhattan, and seek a fresh start. With a new job secured at a thriving midtown agency, and temporary residence obtained in the Upper West Side’s Olcott Hotel – a building with a morbid history of its own – Guy feels that now is the time to lay his troubles to rest. Yet something won’t let him. And as a sinister force from Guy’s past begins to scratch its way back into his present, the behaviour of his son, Callum, also starts to become increasingly disturbing and chilling. As Guy begins to believe that Callum is being possessed by this dark force, others fear he is gradually dispossessing himself of his own sanity. And as Guy grapples with whether the evil tormenting him is in his surroundings, his son, or his own mind, he pushes himself ever closer to the edge…

Again, a fairly familiar premise with a family seemingly haunted by the spirit of a dead child, through the vivid imaginings of the remaining child and so on. However, I rather enjoyed this simplistic tale with Taff’s nice depiction of New York life, a husband in crisis, and a sinister building as a backdrop to the whole affair (The Shining anyone?) As Guy’s mental and physical state deteriorates, to the chagrin of his nearest and dearest, Taffs provides a wholly believable portrait of Guy’s distress, leading us along inch by inch to the causes of his unravelling. The story trotted along at a good pace, and this was a relatively quick and fairly satisfying read.

 

marcusMARCUS SEDGWICK- A LOVE LIKE BLOOD: Paris: August 1944- Charles Jackson, a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps is on leave with his commanding officer. A visit to the treasures stored at the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and a horrifying encounter in the dark of the underground bunker, and his life and future are set on a strange and desperate course. Forging his post-war career as a consultant haematologist at Addenbrooks in Cambridge, Jackson returns to Paris as a guest lecturer. A chance sighting of the man he saw in the bunker  awakens his nightmare experience and a twenty year search for justice begins…

I’m quite the fan of the more subtle and intelligent ‘vampire’ fiction that sometimes infiltrates this overburdened genre, much of which is utter tripe. Looking for something on a par with Jasper Kent’s brilliant series, this was a real treat, and I thoroughly enjoyed the historical touches that underscore a completely absorbing thriller. I loved the slightly tongue in cheek humour of Jackson’s later employment as a haematologist, and Sedgwick’s overall razor sharp observations of his protagonist’s individual obsessions with blood. However, what really carried the book for me was Sedgwick’s precise and empathetic portrayal of Jackson’s descent into obsession, capturing perfectly what lengths he will go to in search of justice, with more than a nod to some of the great tropes of Gothic literature that enthral and intrigue us still.

(With thanks to Orion, Quercus and Mulholland Books respectively for the reading copies)


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