By Mark West
Published by Pendragon Press, 2005
Not the most prolific of authors Mark West has, to date, only published two novels, Conjure in 2009 and In The Rain With the Dead in 2005. I reviewed Conjure here and enjoyed its blend of supernatural horror and British atmosphere so I thought I would take a look into Mark’s back catalogue to see how this previous book compared.
The story is based around the relationship between teenage sweethearts Jim Crenshaw and Nadia Jones. Geeky Jim and gorgeous Nadia have only just started going out when they are invited by friends Jen and Danny to spend the weekend at Jen’s house. After a few drinks a Ouija board is produced with terrible consequences. Twenty years later and the effects of the seance gone wrong are still being felt but Jim and Nadia are reunited at a funeral only to find a much more deadly threat is out there.
The first fifty or so pages start off pretty slowly and without much sign of the supernatural raising its ugly head but then things begin to take off and it’s not long before we are up to our necks in sex and gore. The horror is ramped up by a possessed and perverted monster by the name of Magellan. His twisted perversions are fueled by his demonic possession to pretty extreme levels and several scenes of graphic sexual torture make for uncomfortable reading.
The book is reasonably fast paced after the slow start and despite a couple of strange plot inconsistencies the story manages to take an old theme (teenage seance) and lift it to new levels. That’s not to say it’s perfect however, the dialogue was forced at times and the continual “lovey, dovey” interaction between Jim and Nadia was, at times, almost as vomit inducing as some of the more gory scenes. Despite these issues, there are a couple of scenes which were outstanding in their visceral qualities. A scene where a character sees women hanging from street lamps produced a very powerful image and another incident involving a nailgun exploded into violence with shocking force.
Whilst some scenes were reminiscent of early Clive Barker the tone of the book is much closer to the, ordinary lives turned horrific, style employed by James Herbert. Overall it’s a decent horror novel but it doesn’t quite have the atmosphere and strength of Conjure. It does however show that Mark West’s writing is moving on an upward trajectory which surely means his next novel will be something very special indeed.
Rating 3 out of 5