The Sadeiest by Austrian Spencer

This book is not for the faint-hearted. It will hit you like a train. You will have to comand huge strength and willpower to pick yourself up from the tracks and keep reading. And keep reading you must for this is a tour de force of a book. It is unique. It has a powerful message. It will stay with you.

The Sadeiest is about death and redemption but not in the tired conventional sense. It is a totally new take on the philosophy of dying, of sin and redemption. Williams, guided by his child-mentor Henreich, is the title character, the Sadeiest. His is the macabre task of entering corpses to “relive” their deaths in order to release the souls trapped within them. “Relive deaths” does not even begin to describe his job. Spencer showcases those multiple deaths in all their gory details. The deaths are so vividly presented that you will find yourself gasping for air and tasting bile in your mouth. You will wonder why anyone would ever agree to take on this grotesquely grim role, but this isn’t about choices or free will. It is about penance and redemption.

A lapse catholic, I consider myself well conversant with the concepts of sin, penitence, sacrifice and dying for others to save their souls, but Spencer turns these ideas upside down and inside out, and constructs a whole new philosophy of natural justice beyond grave. I was appalled, mortified and fascinated by this approach, all in equal measure.

As I said, Spencer takes no prisoners. This book is graphically horrifying and you have to have nerves of steel to get through it without feeling sick to the pit of your stomach. But this book isn’t about gratuitous thrills. There are metaphysical depths to it you could only find in some of Stephen King’s works. Reading this book is like looking at a surrealist painting, full of grotesque distortions, bizarre images, fragments of limbs and torn trees, floating objects and screaming faces. Gradually, you will begin to put the pieces together and it will make perfect – though petrifying – sense.   

The Cry of the Lake by Charlie Tyler

The Cry of the Lake by [Charlie Tyler]

This is one of those edge-of-your-seat psychological thrillers. Once you start reading, you find yourself instantly immersed in a tale of intense – almost insane – vengeance, distorted truths and deeply buried, traumatic past. You have to keep going deeper and deeper, until you’re totally absorbed by the story.

The narrative is powered by three different perspectives: Grace, Lilly and Flo. Grace and Lilly are sisters, but for reason which are revealed later in the story they pass themselves off as mother and daughter. It is primarily Grace who adopts this new, alien to her psyche personality to ensnare Tom, a man the two sisters seem to have an unfinished business with. He is the father of Flo, the third narrator.

At the outset, you cannot comprehend why anyone would want to destroy such a nice, kind man as Tom. You instinctively loathe the sinister, duplicitous – and murderous – impostors who have snaked their way into his and Flo’s perfect family life. Lilly is the weaker of the two, more likely to crumble under pressure. Grace seems unstoppable in her mission of hatred. Slowly, people from their past enter the scene and revelations are made to shed some light on her motives. At times, it makes for a disturbing reading: abuse, self-harm feature among other difficult themes. A great read.

Devilishly thrilling Dark London (2) short stories collection from Darkstroke

Dark London: Volume Two by [Mark Patton, Angela Wren, Chris Dommett, Alice Castle, Richard Savin, Alan Taylor, Marie Gault, Tom Halford, Denise Bloom, Harper Channing]

Dark London (Volume 2) is a collection of short stories, each unique and distinct, each different and yet all of them have the same common denominator: London. The stories tell a tale of a city that never sleeps, knows how to hide its darkest secrets in the layers of its past, and is made of the tough stuff of its inimitable people.

There are a lot of shades within Dark London, many different eras and a lot of variety ranging from the contemporary and lighthearted cozy crime in Dulwich to the blood curdling horrors. You will find yourself traipsing London on a night bus in the company of highly-principled illegal aliens and you will end up in the middle of the inexplicable, sinister and freakish Gothic show which may not be from this world but it has London written into it.

Suspend belief, bring your own comfort blanket and have a go. You will find yourself devilishly thrilled.

Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards

Everything in this novel points out to an obvious and inescapable conclusion: the title, the opening scenes, things that are untold but insinuated about the characters. As a reader you are lulled into a false sense of certainty that you can cross the Ts and dot the Is all by yourself, without the writer’s help. You feel like you could write that book, no problem. Which is an illusion cleverly contrived by Edwards.
Naturally, you come to discover how wrong you were as you near the end of the story. You are still tortured with other possibilities and you twist like that proverbial worm on a hook until the least expected denouement falls into your lap.
I found myself frowning, feeling a little cheated at that point. I guess it was my inner Miss Marple who felt she had not been presented with all the evidence – sour grapes.
The story is narrated in the first person. The prose is straightforward and genuine. It does not stand in the way of the plot. You feel for the protagonist who struggles to believe in what his eyes (and a couple of other characters) are telling him.

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley


In ‘The Loney’ an annual Easter pilgrimage is undertaken by a group of devout Catholics to a shrine in a desolate, seemingly God-forsaken ‘nowhere place’. The pilgrims take lodgings in a decrepit old house that used to be a sanatorium for terminally ill children. Both the house and the area hide unspeakable secrets. So do the local residents.

The pilgrimage is led by a charming and fresh-faced Father Barnard, but the figure of his predecessor, Father Wilfred, is looming over the story, large and intimidating. Father Wilfred died unexpectedly and in inexplicable circumstances shortly before the trip, and as the events unfold, his story is told in parallel and at some point it takes over the spotlight. The purpose of visiting the shrine is to receive a miracle for Hanny. He is the younger of two brothers and he is mute and apparently retarded. His older brother, Tonto, takes care of him. He is also the narrator of this story. The reader see things through the eyes of a teenage boy, and grows with him as his understanding of events deepens as the story goes on.

The innocent play they boys engage in out in the wild is overshadowed by eerie discoveries they make and by suspicious characters who barge into the storyline. Alongside Tonto the reader struggles to make sense of the place and the people.

This is a beautifully presented moment in time seen through the eyes of a child, unexplained in logical or linear terms, but one that can be felt, feared and marvelled over. It is about shades of faith of different shapes and sizes, but with a common denominator of the ‘beyond reason and common sense’ mystery. The line between belief and superstition is blurred. Nothing is confirmed, but the sense of alternative reality is all-pervading.

I loved this book for it its non-conventionality, its mystique and its structure which seems to lead nowhere and yet in the end it opens your eyes to see something you are unable to describe in words.

The House of the Wicked by DM Mitchell

An excellent slow-burning thriller with a supernatural twist. What I liked about this book was the fact that it wasn’t overcooked. Sometimes you reach for a “Victoria” gothic novel and you end up with an utterly unconvincing parody. Not so with The House of the Wicked. It is believable and therefore it can be chilling.

I loved the way local Cornish folklore was blended into the storyline without become overpowering. The story run smoothly to its surprising and sad conclusion. The characters were real people, full of faults and doubts. Their motivations made sense to me. I shall read more of D M Mitchell.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

It is only appropriate that I should look at a ghost story on this stormy Halloween evening. I understand that both a West End play and a film with Daniel Radcliffe (also known as Harry Potter) have been made, based on this book. I have seen neither of them though I can imagine how the book may lend itself to adaptation for stage or, even more so, for a cinematographic recreation. Especially if special effects come into play. The story is about a young solicitor, Arthur Kipps, travelling to a remote, derelict house on the outskirts of a God-forsaken little town surrounded by marshes, in order to sort out the affairs of his firm’s deceased client, Mrs Drablow. Something sinister hangs in the air even before he sees the apparition of a black-clad woman. The locals are afraid to talk about her. There is a conspiracy of silence. And fear. When Arthur gets cut off the rest of the world whilst working alone in Mrs Drablow’s house, the haunting intensifies. A chair rocks relentlessly in one of the rooms. The woman crosses his path at a cemetery. Then, in the thickest of the night, he hears the distressed sound of a drowning pony and screams of a child.

Susan Hill builds up the atmosphere with skill. She has a gothic touch. She knows the tools of horror writing: the air of secrecy, the hapless locals, an empty old house and some great tragedy lingering in the background. What I would like to see more of is the characters of the people involved in the ghostly affair to be more in-depth, more developed. I want to know them better. I want to know them, not just the man who, randomly and irrelevantly, happens to be in the house and happens to be haunted.

On the other hand, perhaps the mystery of those characters is what a good ghost story is all about?

Finally, to the ending. I won’t reveal it in case there are still people out there who have not read or seen “The Woman in Black”, but I will say that the ending, for me, was the weakest point. There was no vindication. No reason for what happened in the end. Again, it was random and unjustified and so, I felt no compassion for those affected by the original tragedy.