Category Archives: Horror

The Tale of Halcyon Crane

The Tale of Halcyon Craneby Wendy Webb

Raised on America’s east coast by her devoted father, Hallie James has always known she had no other family, that her mother had died in a house fire thirty years ago, and that her life was never going to amount to anything special. With a failed marriage to her credit and her beloved father losing his fight with dementia, Hallie is in need of a new direction in her life, even if she doesn’t know it herself.

But when out of the blue, she receives a mysterious letter from celebrated photographer Madlyn Crane, Hallie is forced to question everything she thought she knew about herself and her father.

Her quest for answers takes her to the remote island on the Great Lakes that was home to the strange woman who claimed to be her mother. Once there she soon discovers that her own disappearance 30 years earlier is not the only mystery the strange island has to offer.

From the moment Hallie arrives inexplicable things begin to happen and as she begins to learn the truth about her family (and herself) the sense of danger becomes very real. 

From the tragedy of losing both her mother and her father in such quick succession leaves Hallie very much alone, but not for long. Her return to the island rekindles a friendship she had long forgotten and gives the grown-up Halycon something worth fighting for.

The Tale of Halcyon Crane is a wonderfully gothic tale that is both captivating and haunting. The subtle way the Wendy Webb tells the story gives the book a deceptively gentle feel. There is plenty of ghostly goings on, strange voices, witches and disturbing dreams, but it never gets gory or over the top. The light touch Webb gives the story is one of the reasons it works so well. 

Mrs Webb is a good storyteller with a real understanding of her chosen genre. This is the second of her book I have read and it has proven without a doubt that she is one to watch.

 

The Silence

The Silenceby Tim Lebbon

Every now and again I pick up a book by someone I have never read before and Know almost straight away that I have found something special. What attracted me to the book I do not know – it was probably recommended – but I am so glad it did.

From the very first page, I was totally gripped by the intriguing plot, engaging characters and the wonderful storytelling. Told in both first and third person, the readers’ viewpoint switches rapidly as the apocalyptic events unfold. 

Telling the story from her own point of view is young Alley, a deaf teenager. Used to a world of silence, Alley is almost uniquely skilled to help her family survive when their world is threatened by the emergence of what become commonly known as vesps, creatures that have evolved in the darkness of a vast cave system and hunt by sound. 

I have read plenty of end-of-the-world type books over the years, with humanity coming close to extinction more times than I can remember. So the premise of the book is nothing new as such, but the way it is told and the form of the threat very different from anything I have come across before. 

At the heart of the story are Alley and her family. Alley’s deafness gives them a distinct advantage over their peers. They have developed their own family sign language that allows them to communicate in a world when the smallest of sounds can bring death in the form of these ravenous batlike creatures. Death is never far away and sacrifice often the only means of escape. 

As the family move from their home and make their way north, they have to deal with not only their own fears but also the outward effects of fear on the people they meet. As mankind fights for its survival Alley sees first hand just how far others are willing to go to save the ones they love. And in the figure of the Reverand, one of the creepiest characters I have read for a while.

From beginning to end, The Silence is a great mix of horror and thriller. The characters are as well formed as any and the story itself compelling. A great book.

The Fate of Mercy Alban

by Wendy Webb

The Fate of Mercy AlbanEvery now and again there comes a book that takes me very much by surprise and this is definitely one of them. The Fate of Mercy Alban is written in the fine old tradition of Gothic Horror. There are dark secrets, unexplained happenings and more than a hint of the supernatural. Combine these elements with a smooth and easy writing style and clever plot twists and you have the makings of an exceptional book.

The story itself centres around the Alban family, [articuarly Grace Alban who has returned to the family home after twenty years and is almost immediately drawn into a mystery spanning back to the 1950s. Following the sudden death of her mother, Grace returns to the family home on the banks of Lake Superior to arrange the funeral and settle the estate. But what she discovers very quickly leads Grace to face not only events from her own past that have kept her away but also the darker secrets that surround events of the summer of 1956.

Alban Househas stod on the banks of Lake Superior for over 100 years and in that time there have been enough tragedy to have led to talk of the Alban Curse. Whilst Grace may not believe in such things, events at the house soon begin to make her wonder.

Uncovering a bundle of old letters sets Grace on a course that brings her face-to-face with a secret that has been kept by her family for over 50 years. but she is not the only one trying to uncover the truth about that fateful summer night.

There is an underlying sense of terror that runs throughout this book that makes it one of the most compelling books I have read for some time. The interplay between the characters and the truth is painstakingly revealed make it almost impossible to put the book down. Whilst it does not have the same pace as the likes of King or Herbert, there is no let up in the drive to find the answers. A really good read from an author I am very pleased to have been introduced to. 

Thinner

Thinnerby Stephen King writing as  Richard Bachman

Thinner is one of a series of Stephen King novels originally published under the name of Richard Bachman. 

I can understand when a well-known writer uses a pseudonym works that are outside of their normal style, but why King felt the need to release horror novels under a different name I find hard to fathom. Everything about this books screams Stephen King so what was the point?

Thinner has all the hallmarks of a King classic, but is somehow just a little too pedestrian in execution. 

In a world obsessed with body image, the idea of losing weight rapidly and with no effort seems like something many people would welcome. But when it is the result of a gypsy curse, it becomes the thing of nightmares. Whilst those around him congratulate Billy Halleck on how well he looks, Billy and his family are being torn apart by it.

The more weight he loses, the more isolated Billy becomes, and the more determined to find a way to reverse the process. But when everybody knows there is no such thing as a curse, how do you go about getting help? His belief in what the old gypsy has done to him alienates him from his family and his doctors who, despite being at a loss to explain what is happening, are equally as determined that there is nothing supernatural going on.

There is plenty of action and some unexpected twists in the way and I found the book to be an easy and interesting read. The ending has a typical Stephen King twist and as you would expect, it is not a clean cut happy ever after affair. And although I would say it is not in the same league as Pet Cemetery or IT, Thinner is a good horror story. King is a natural storyteller whose imagination seems boundless when it comes to finding new ways to scare the public. Thinner is more a moral thriller than a horror, but it has pace and twists that make it easy to read and difficult to put down. A good read, but not quite a classic.

The Jonah

by James Herbert

The JonahJames Herbert has been a permanent feature of the bestsellers lists since “The rats” was first published in 1974. Often considered, mainly by those who haven’t read his books, to be a horror writer, his books and actually generally thrillers, all-be-it often with a supernatural twist. In facrt, his most famous series – Rats, Lair and Domain – are closer to science fiction.

“The Jonah” is a detective story with a touch of the supernatural. Jim Kelso is a detective with the Drugs Squad in London. He is good at his job but he has the unenviable reputation for bringing bad luck to those around him. The death of a fellow officer on a drugs bust is the last straw for his boss and Kelps finds himself working undercover in a remote Sussex fishing village.

Playing the part of an ornithologist undertaking research for a bird charity, Kelso is alone so he can’t hurt anyone, or so it seems at first. With frequent flashbacks we begin to uncover the dark secret behind the inexplicable events in Kelso’s life.  

Investigating the mysterious events that led to an otherwise unassuming family falling foul of the effect of LSD. The police are baffled as to how a quiet family like the Preeces have come into contact with illegal drugs. And is there any connection with the death of a USAF pilot, also under the influence of LSD?

On the verge of giving up the investigation he is joined by HM Customs investigator Ellie Sheppard. Despite his reservations about working with her, the pair soon begin to uncover the truth the lies beneath the surface of the small community. But for Kelso, it is the revelation of the secrets of his own past that bring the greatest danger.

James Herbert is a great story teller, whatever the genre. One of the things I love about his books is the care he takes with his characters, even those who barely live longer than two pages. As disaster strikes the village, we are introduced to a number of locals and, in Herbert’s trademark style, we get to know a lot more about them than is necessary. That is not a negative by the way, I love the way he builds up his incidental characters. “The Jonah” is typical James Herbert. Not necessarily one of his best (that would be “Magic Cottage”), but well worth the read and a reminder for me of why I got hooked on his books in the first place. I began reading his books when I was a teenager, but the Jonah is one of several I missed at the time. I think now that I need to catch up a bit.

The Three (The Three #1)

by Sarah Lotz

The ThreeThe Three is a captivating and imaginative thriller like none I have come across before. There are ghost and hints of the supernatural, but it is not a horror story; there is talk of aliens and abduction, but it is not science fiction. Written as a series of interviews, articles, reports and blogs, it has a relentless pace.
 
The story itself centres around three children who are the sole survivors of four aeroplane crashes. The children and their families become the focus of intense media attention as the world looks on and tries to work out just how they managed to survive, virtually unscathed.
 
The events following the simultaneous disasters are told through the words of those around the children who find that they themselves are also victims.
 
The action moves between Japan, Africa, the UK and the US, but all are linked in ways that none of those involved can begin to understand. It is obvious that something beyond normal experience is happening, but no one seems to be able to see the whole picture, not even the writer trying to put it all together.
 
Throughout the book, Sarah Lotz’s narrative encourages the reader to question the things that motivate us and our beliefs. With Christian fanatics predicting the end of the world and conspiracy theorists seeing what they want to see, it is difficult to know who to believe.
 
I found The Three to be a compelling read; easy to read but difficult to put down. The unusual style of narrative do make the story slightly disjointed, but to me that only adds to the feeling that there is something sinister going on.

 

Bellman & Black

by Diane Setterfield

Bellman and Black“Bellman & Black” is a dark tale of tragedy, success, mystery and rooks. It follows the life of William Bellman, starting with his killing of a rook as a ten-year-old. A seemingly insignificant event that comes to have greater meaning as he gets older.

In his late teens young William is taken under the wing of his uncle Paul who gives him a job at the family textiles mill. Everything goes well, with William quickly becoming an integral and increasingly important part of the Bellman empire. But tragedy is never very far away, and a series of tragic and, in some cases, unexplained deaths conspire to leave William running the family business.

Just when he feels secure, with the mill more successful than ever and his wife and children content in their lives, the ultimate tragedy brings William to despair. It is then that a chance meeting with a stranger sets William on a new course, giving him something to funnel his energies into.

But what has all this got to do with the rooks?

“Bellman & Black” is an unusual book. It is not a ghost story, although it does have some of the dark mystery that you would associate with the genre. It is compelling, well written and full of surprises. I must say I was a little disappointed with the way it ended as I felt there was something more that could have been told about William’s later years, but this does not alter the fact that I found it a riveting read, one I could not put down and enjoyed to the very last page. 

A really intriguing and entertaining book.

Terminus (Outpost #2)

by Adam Baker

Terminus“Terminus” is the third in his series of books surrounding a mystery plague that turns humans into something half robot half zombies.

I will admit that when put like that it does sound a little pathetic. Just another trash zombie book! Well actually no, these books are far from that. Adam Baker is a great writer with the ability to draw the reader in and keep you hooked right to the very end. 

There are no characters that link the three books (and the fourth?), only the mystery infection. But with each book we get a little more of an insight into the “virus” and its purpose.

In Terminus, a team are sent into the subway tunnels below Manhattan to recover a team of scientists and their notes. But things start to go wrong right from the start with members of the team falling victim to the plague carriers, cold and nuclear fallout. 

A pattern is beginning to emerge. We know that the characters will probably not going to make it as far as the next book, but that doesn’t stop me wishing for their survival. 

Like its predecessors, Terminus has pace, believable characters and a plot that keeps you guessing right to the end. Baker is very descriptive of the rescue and military hardware, and it’s obvious he has done his research.

Once again, Adam Baker has produced a book that is difficult to put down. 

The Twelve (The Passage #2)

 The Twelveby Justin Cronin

The Twelve is the second instalment of Justin Cronin’s tale of a world (well, just North America actually) that has been ravaged by a vital plague. In the first book, “The Passage”, we were introduced to the main characters and the very different world they inhabit.
Most of the action in the second book set almost 100 years after the outbreak of the deadly plague, and a world where viral “vampires” hold sway over most of North America. Mankind has been reduced to a few outposts.

But unlike the first book, were men only had the ravaging virals themselves to deal with, in “The Twelve” we find that there is much more going on.

The Twelve referred to in the title are the twelve original victims, infected as part of a secret government experiment. Made up of death-row prisoners, they may not be the most suitable people to find themselves in control of a whole new breed, but that is what they. The only chance mankind has lies in the hands of a small girl called Amy – the girl from nowhere. But Amy isn’t what she seems. She has been a small child for almost 100 years but as the story nears it’s dramatic conclusion, she finds herself becoming a young woman. 

There are several different threads to follow, with the main characters coming together for an explosive end.

The story is well paced and well written. Justin Cronin knows how to tell a tale and his characters are as believable as ever. Where the first book had the advantage of setting the scene for a very different vampire-style tale, the second concentrates on the relationships and emotions of the protagonists. Maybe this is why some readers found it a little disappointing. For myself, I can only say I enjoyed it and would recommend both books.

Dying Words

Dying Wordsby Shaun Hutson

Hardened London detectives Birch and Johnson investigate an horrific series of murders in which the only link seems to be the work of two seemingly very different writers. But all is not as it seems, and as the murders get more brutal, and with no sign of how the murdered got into or away from the scene, the most unbelievable solution seems to become the only answer.

Shaun Hutson manages to combine great story telling with horror and mystery. His books always look into the darker site of urban life that is gripping, fantastic and often frighteningly believable.

Even though I had read the book before the ending took me a little by surprise.

A really good read for anyone who enjoys a good horror story.