by Adam Nevill
Published by Pan, 2010.
Adam Nevill follows up his successful first horror novel, Banquet for the Damned with Apartment 16. That first novel gathered a lot of praise as something of a return to classic horror but with a modern twist. I was really interested to see if he could repeat those qualities this time round.
Apryl’s Great Aunt, Lillian Archer dies and bequeaths Apryl and her mother Barrington House. The culture shock for Apryl, a streetwise young woman from New York, as she encounters the glamorous and expensive London location of Barrington house is profound. Even more intriguing though is the history of Barrington and it’s residents which Apryl gradually reveals. Needless to say, this being a horror novel, all is not as it seems, especially in Apartment 16 where something is stirring.
Adam Nevill has put together an excellent cast of characters from streetwise Apryl, hotel staff Simon and Seth and, of course the residents of Barrington past and present. In particular Seth shines as a very well constructed character no doubt partly helped by Mr Nevill’s own experience as a hotel porter.
The plot may not be hugely original, bringing together several well worn ideas but it brings them together in a brilliantly paced sequence maintaining tension and interest right to the end. Adam Nevill excels at creating the feel of the classic ghost story and this book has excellent examples of that skill in action. Tense, subtle and very creepy passages full of strange noises, slightly glimpsed visions and horrific nightmares exploit the horror and maintain intrigue. This moves from relatively subtle glimpses to increasingly nasty and violent events through the book but it matches the pace of the plot perfectly to ramp up the tension in the reader’s mind whilst maintaining a supernatural mystique to the very end.
Nevill successfully merges the sensibilities of the classic ghost story with the modern world to produce a thoroughly satisfying horror novel. It doesn’t rely on gore, sex or street cred to succeed (although it has elements of all three), trusting instead in the more subtle, deeper and meaningful nuances of the supernatural threat he establishes. This coupled with the strong characters creates that rarest of things a horror novel with depth and scares in equal measure.
Rating 4.5 out of 5